President Obama has promised to send military aid to the rebel forces in Syria. Senator McCain and ex-President Clinton both had publicly chastised Obama for hesitating.
On Tuesday evening, Clinton warned Obama that he risked looking like a “total wuss” and a “total fool” if he continued to sit to the sidelines.
On Wednesday, Obama made his pledge to do what Clinton recommended. The White House has not yet identified which accusation President Obama is trying to avoid: being a total wuss or a total fool.
This announcement was good news for the Jabhat al Nusra Front, which is one of the rebel groups. Its chief recently swore allegiance to Sheik Ayman al-Zawahri, who is generally regarded as having replaced Osama bin Laden as the head of Al Qaeda. USA Today reports the following.
Lebanese Sheik Omar Bakri, a Salafist who says states must be governed by Muslim religious law, says al-Qaeda has assisted al Nusra for some time.
“They provided them early on with technical, military and financial support , especially when it came to setting up networks of foreign jihadis who were brought into Syria,” Bakri says. “There will certainly be greater coordination between the two groups.”
The United States government last December identified al Nusra as a terrorist entity.
Officially, the Obama Administration has said that its goal is to send arms only to non-terrorist troops fighting in Syria. Unfortunately, this goal has not gained widespread support in Syria.
Tamer Mouhieddine, spokesman for the Syrian Free Army, a force made up of Syrian soldiers who have defected, said the recent announcements would not change his group’s attitude toward al Nusra.
“The rebels in Syria have one common enemy — Bashar Assad — and they will collaborate with any faction allowing them to topple his regime,” he said.
Economic theory teaches that whenever a government subsidy increases the supply of any scarce resource, the tendency is for the price of the subsidized item to decline. This price decrease increases demand for the subsidized item. This mean that weapons flowing from the United States government to rebel forces in Syria will result in lower prices for the al Nusra Front.
By reducing the price of participating in the rebellion, the United States government will lower al Nusra’s costs. Economic law is true: “When prices fall, more is demanded.”
This is why, economically speaking, the United States government will be subsidizing participation in a terrorist organization in the Middle East. The subsidy is indirect, but it is no less real economically than a shipment of weapons directly to al Nusra.
Because al Nusra’s cost of obtaining weapons will fall, this will free up al Nusra’s economic resources for charitable work. It uses these resources to gain support in the Syrian countryside.
Aaron Zelin at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in Washington says al Nusra’s ability to provide security and basic needs such as bread and fuel to Syrian civilians, as well as to reopen shops and restart bus services, has won gratitude from people who would not usually adhere to its strict ideology.
Zelin says some Syrian people have criticized al Nusra for banning alcohol, forcing women to wear a full veil and whipping men who are seen with women in public.
When you think “al Nusra,” think “Taliban.”
The effect of any U.S. government subsidy to the “good” rebel forces in Syria will be to subsidize the “bad” rebel forces.
This is what is known as a side effect. A side effect is an effect that the person causing the effect does not approve of. There will be lots of side effects in Syria as a result of Obama’s new policy.