Chuck Spinney: WIkiStrat on US History in Syria

08 Wild Cards
Chuck Spinney
Chuck Spinney

Attached is a useful summary of US involvement in Syria, which dates back to missionaries in 1820.

Washington’s Long History in Syria

Ernesto J. Sanchez, The National Interest, July 12, 2013

As they consider further intervention in Syria, Washington policymakers should be aware of the history of previous U.S. involvement there. During the Cold War’s early years, the United States tried to overthrow the Syrian government in one of the most sustained covert-operations campaigns ever conducted.

Lee Kuan Yew has observed that “it is the collective memory of a people, the composite learning from past events which led to successes or disasters that makes a people welcome or fear new events, because they recognize parts in new events which have similarities with past experience.” And in a region of the world where memories are long and history matters, past events indicate that overtly arming the Syrian rebels could amount to an even bigger kiss of death.

Things were not always so bad between the United States and Syria. Robert Kaplan’s 1995 book The Arabists [3] describes an Ottoman-ruled Syria where American Protestant missionaries arrived in 1820, fifteen years before Washington opened a consulate in Aleppo [4]. These missionaries did not succeed in converting many individuals to Christianity, but were nonetheless loved for many other contributions, like the medical treatment they brought to poor remote villages and their 1866 founding of what is now the American University of Beirut [5] (modern Lebanon was then considered part of Syria). In the spirit of the American Revolution, many of these missionaries supported the movement for Arab independence from Ottoman rule. Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points [6] followed suit by calling for “nationalities which are now under Turkish rule [to] be assured an undoubted security of life and an absolutely unmolested opportunity of autonomous development.”

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Phi Beta Iota:  This is hardly an article, more like a post — and its reference are all Wikipedia and National Interest op-eds — not quite scholarship.  The most interesting anomaly is the assertion that President Truman authorized a coup by CIA, which would be in direct conflict with his 1968 assertion that he never wanted CIA to be an action agency, only a collator of nformation collected by others.