Back in 2007, when the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were both running hot, the American Friends Service Committee issued a report that claimed we were spending $720 million a day and $500,000 a minute on those two conflicts. I was reminded of those numbers, which I assume were at least in the ballpark for accuracy, when I saw that the Obama administration had asked Congress for $500 million for direct military spending in Syria.
I’m not saying that $500 million isn’t a lot of money, but it doesn’t really amount to much when you’re talking about an ongoing civil, sectarian, and ethnic war that has engulfed a whole region. Obviously, back in 2007, $500 million wouldn’t have even gotten us through one day of fighting.
So, I have two reactions to this request. The first is that it is so insubstantial that it doesn’t really matter one way or the other. The second is that, precisely because this small sum is unlikely to be sufficient to make any material change in the conflict, this is just the first of many payments to come. In other words, it’s the first step on the slippery slope.
The administration has said repeatedly in recent weeks that it was preparing additional assistance to vetted “moderate” opposition forces fighting both the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and extremists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), who have now spread their area of control across the Syrian border into Iraq.
If Congress approves the funding, it would mark the first direct U.S. military participation in the Syrian conflict. The training would probably take place in neighboring Jordan, where the CIA is currently training Syrian opposition forces, and possibly in Turkey.
I have zero faith in “moderate” forces in Syria right now. Moderate forces sound like forces who run away when confronted by committed fighters.
If it were up to me, I’d spend the money training people in Jordan to protect Jordan.
Iraqi military officials said Sunday that two border crossings — one with Syria and one with Jordan — had been seized by Sunni militants, in addition to the four nearby towns captured by insurgent forces since Friday.
The officials said “Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) captured the Turaibil crossing with Jordan and the al-Walid crossing with Syria after government forces pulled out.
Keeping the conflict from spreading within Jordan’s border seem like an effort worth investing in which has some prospect for success. But $500 million for Syria? We might as well just set our money on fire.