Seems far-fetched. We’re going to recruit and vet thousands of possibly unreliable foreigners, arm them to the teeth, shower them with cash, give them some perfunctory training, then send them into battle against the world’s nastiest jihadi degenerates, from ISIS to Al Qaeda to Hezbollah? Why, that’s … exactly what Obama’s planning to do with Syria’s “moderates.”Right? One of O’Reilly’s guests last night called his mercenary plan “morally corrosive” because it would outsource the national security of the United States to foreign actors, which … we’re right now in the process of doing. Who would you rather take your natsec chances with? A multinational mercenary force of experienced Blackwater-types who share no interests with ISIS, or a group of Sunnis from Syria who are more interested in attacking Assad and might be A-OK with the thought of Wahhabis ruling Damascus when push comes to shove?
The UN prohibits the raising of mercenary armies but the U.S. didn’t ratify the treaty that established that rule, so hey. (On the contrary, Article I of the Constitution empowers Congress to issue “letters of marque,” as any Ron Paul fan will happily remind you.) The flaw in O’Reilly’s theory isn’t that it’s “morally corrosive” to send trained soldiers-for-hire to do the heavy lifting against ISIS that our incompetent and cowardly Sunni allies in the region should be doing for themselves. The flaw is that there’s no obvious next step if the mercenaries succeed in routing ISIS from Raqqa and eastern Syria. Who takes over and rules that half of the country if that happens? Assad? He’ll butcher the Sunni civilians there and the Sunnis know it. A new sectarian rebellion against the regime would spring up overnight. Some sort of multinational Sunni force of Saudi, Turkish, and Jordanian troops? Iran will never let the Saudis have that kind of foothold, and besides, none of those countries want the headache of pacifying radicalized Sunni Syrian civilians. NATO doesn’t want it either, of course; an army of western peacekeepers would be even more culturally estranged from Syrian Arabs than a multinational Sunni force would. The theoretical virtue of Obama’s “arm the Syrian moderates” plan is that if the moderates were to defeat ISIS, they’d be comparatively well positioned to take over as rulers of eastern Syria. They’re natives and they’re Sunnis; they’re probably acceptable to the locals. But of course, the moderates aren’t going to defeat ISIS, which puts us back at square one.
The answer, I guess, is that you’d need to train two mercenary forces — one a multinational army that could actually stamp ISIS out with NATO help and the other a Syrian peacekeeping force to occupy ISIS territory that’s been reconquered by the first force. And even if you did that, you’d need to assure somehow that Assad wouldn’t try to overrun those peacekeepers, which means the multinational force might have to take him on too after ISIS is gone. No sweat. Exit question: Why aren’t our very wealthy Sunni “allies” trying to bankroll something like this already?