“Not that anyone in a position of power seems to notice, but there's a simple rule for American military involvement in the Greater Middle East: once the U.S. gets in, no matter the country, it never truly gets out again.”  

Commentator Tom Engelhardt writing in “Common Dreams”  

   The recent news from Syria is very alarming. We are one mistake away from a disastrous confrontation with Russia. Last week we shot down a Syrian SU-22 fighter bomber. The Russians responded by threatening to treat U.S. led “coalition” planes flying west of the Euphrates River as targets. They also threatened to cancel the hot line designed to avoid accidental incidents between Russian and U.S. operations. If the next plane shot down is Russian or American we could have a war with Russia.  

   When will we ever learn? There are no objectives in Syria worth risking a confrontation with Russia. Wars are started by little incidents that snowball out of control because of the face-saving pride, arrogance and misjudgments of leaders. The belligerent, egotistical, jingoistic attitudes of the leadership of Russia and our country should alarm all of us. Especially scary is the fact that we have a leader of unparalleled egotism, arrogance, ignorance, and lack of good judgment.    

   Everyone knows there are no military solutions to the civil war in Syria or conflicts in the rest of the region. Yet we persist with military actions. Since the first Gulf War in 1991, we have been bombing in the Middle East almost continuously for 26 years. Nothing in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen has improved. The Syrian conflict is expanding with Syria, Russia, Turkey and the U.S. actively bombing people. Iran, Israel, and Saudi Arabia are messing around supporting various factions. In early April, we fired 57 cruise missiles at a Syrian airfield. In May and June, U.S. fighter jets launched three attacks against pro-Syrian forces. In the last month we have downed two Iranian made drones. But the tragedy for the people of Syria continues.  

In Syria we are making all the mistakes that got us into past quagmires. We claim, with grandiose platitudes, to be fighting terrorism. But we are actually taking sides in the Syrian civil war. A war with many competing factions and no clear “good guys.” We are claiming to be defending our “advisers” and “coalition” forces. But we have no legal authority or reason to be in Syria. Once again we are asserting our self-proclaimed right to police the world. We are making imprudent threats of military action by stating “U.S. pilots operating over Syria won't hesitate to defend themselves from Russian threats.” We have no apparent plan for what comes next. We have no authorization from Congress and no exit strategy. We have little or no support from the international community.  

   General Colin Powell summed up the “lessons learned” from the Vietnam War with eight criteria for a decision to go to war called the Powell Doctrine. We are violating all of these principles in Syria. Our political leadership has not learned anything from Vietnam or the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They think there are no limits to our imperial military power.  

   The war in Afghanistan is being lost. Army Gen. John W. Nicholson, former commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, recently said we are facing a “stalemate” in Afghanistan. He requested two thousand more troops to train and “advise“ Afghan forces. One would think after 16 years, the Afghans would be sufficiently “trained.”   The conflict in Iraq has not been solved. Fighting and suicide bombings continue after 15 years. We still have troops, CIA operatives, and mercenaries in Iraq. For all the hundreds of billions poured into that quagmire, the Iraqis do not have a stable, functioning government. They are worse off than under Saddam Hussein.  

   Despite being in the process of losing two ongoing conflicts and on the verge of sliding into an unnecessary third one, we are threatening military action in Korea. They are developing nuclear weapons and testing missiles. Hypocritically we are busy “modernizing” our nuclear weapons, testing ICBM missiles over the Pacific, and conducting war games with South Korea. But North Korea is, according to Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, “the most urgent and dangerous threat to peace and security.”  

   Then there is the on going, bi-partisan threatening of Iran. Candidate Trump portrayed the Obama administration as “soft” on Iran. His administration is increasing pressure on Iran with economic sanctions and arms deals with Saudi Arabia. Citizen Donald Trump in 2013 ironically said “We will end up going to war with Iran because we have people who don’t know what the hell they are doing.” Unfortunately President Trump may be fulfilling this prophecy.  

   We like to think of our country as the good guys. We think we promote peace, justice and democracy. But we are known for our military power and not our ability to arbitrate conflicts. We are the largest maker and seller of weapons. We have invaded, destabilized, and overthrown more countries than any other nation. We have a global military presence greater than any empire in the history of the world.  

   Violence, whether done by “terrorists” or the U.S military, does not work to resolve disputes. As Pete Seeger said in a song about the Vietnam War, “we are neck deep in the big muddy and the damn fool says to push on.” WHEN WILL WE EVER LEARN?