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Steve Lunetta: What’s our role in the Middle East?

Posted: September 16, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: September 16, 2013 2:00 a.m.

My family spent many years in the Middle East because of my Dad’s occupation. He was a hydro-geologist, which means he’s a guy who found water. Think divining stick with a little bit of science.

He worked for several companies as well as the United Nations. His job assignments took him through Tunisia, Libya, Kuwait, Baghdad, Beirut, and numerous smaller places that I cannot even remember.

I grew up on stories of the Middle East, how Americans are viewed there, and what the people are like. And, unfortunately, it ain’t pretty.

My parents always made one thing clear: We were respected but not loved. And the respect only lasted as long as benefit was being given. After that, we were infidels.

Americans have difficulty relating to the Middle East. We tend to think of things short-term, and we think we can change who and what we are.

If our parents were rotten, poor, aristocratic, or whatever, that is not how it has to be for us. Yesterday is yesterday and quickly forgotten.

Middle Eastern folks tend not to think that way. They think long-term, and history meansa great deal. Who you are is formed by who your parents were, grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on.

To many in the Middle East, the Crusades happened yesterday (for the record, the Crusades happened in the 1100-to-1300 time range). The hate, fear, and loathing of the West remains as a backdrop and undercurrent in much of the politics and thought in the region.

So what does that have to do with us today? Frankly, everything.

An American “adventure” in Syria seems ill-advised at best and downright foolish at worst. No one is our friend in Syria.

Check that. We have friends as long as we provide benefit. The instant that stops, we are surrounded by enemies once again.

One can go back in the annals of history and find similar scenarios and conquerors: Hittities, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Ottomans, Crusaders, British, French and more. Not that not one of them is in control now.

And we Americans are not in control, either. President Assad of Syria is fighting a war of survival and will do whatever it takes to remain in power.

And that includes the use of “off-limit” or “over the red line” weapons like war chemicals and agents.

It has been reported that Assad used sarin gas against his own people, killing about 1700. Many of the dead were children.

Secretary of State John Kerry recently said that hair and blood samples sent to Washington were analyzed and found evidence of a sarin gas attack in Syria.

Sarin is an organophosphorus compound that has been weaponized as a nerve agent. It was classified as a weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations in 1967. That means it’s really nasty stuff.

Where did the Syrian sarin gas come from? News reports have the United Kingdom selling the base chemicals to organizations in Syria, so it is conceivable that the Assad regime made the materials on their own.

A recent column in The Signal opinion page suggested the sarin weapons came from Iraq and the Hussein regime, possibly explaining why WMDs were not found there after Desert Storm.

This was widely shouted down by the local leftist community who wants nothing more than to discredit a former president while ignoring facts.

Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons to slaughter large numbers of ethnic Kurds. He had the technology and freely used it.

The theory that the missing Iraqi WMDs wound up in Syria is an interesting thought but difficult to prove. And what does it matter as it relates to Syria? 

Assad used outlawed and horrific weapons on his own people. That is the critical issue.

If we decide to punish Assad by bombing selected targets in Syria or, worse, place American military assets on the ground, what benefit do we receive?

Will we be making friends? Will the people rise up and claim their undying love for the USA?

Nope. Won’t happen. We may get some scattered applause from those who gain a temporary, short-term benefit — but it will end rapidly.

Then things will turn back to the hate and enmity that the region has felt for the West since knights in white with red crosses on their chests rode into town.

Let’s stay out of Syria and let the Syrians sort out their own issues.

Steve Lunetta is a resident of Santa Clarita and claims no special knowledge or wisdom on the Middle East. He can be reached at


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