Lots of calls for the USA to do something about the civil war raging in Syria. Well we have placed strict sanctions and embargoes on the country and joined the UN in calling for the Syrian regime to stop killing its citizens. The call now is to step up our involvement - give weapons to the rebels, give them other aid, and ultimately send in our troops.
Americans should know better than most what a civil war is and what it does to a country, we had one of the worse in history. It too was the subject of foreign involvement. The Confederacy hocked its cotton crop for years in advance to buy weapons from Europeans, most notably the British. This flow of guns was a key to the war’s progress and the Union responded by blockading all the ports in the Confederacy. We all remember Rhett Butler from “Gone With The Wind” who was a blockade runner supplying the Southern war machine. The problem for the South was that while it could get weapons via blockade runners it was hard to ship out the cotton to pay for the goods.
After the war Britain still showed its allegiance by allowing Confederate President Jefferson Davis to take refuge there. Davis had been spared the gallows by President Johnson, who was impeached for this and his other attempts to shield southerners from reprisals. But Davis knew it was time to blow town until tempers cooled.
Even our Revolution could be viewed as a civil war in that it pitted American colonial against American colonial. None other than Ben Franklin’s own son was a loyal subject of King George as well as a high official in the colonial government. He sought refuge in Canada after the war and never saw his father again.
I believe all historians will agree that we would never have won the Revolution without the involvement of France. At the final battle, Yorktown, where the British surrendered, they faced an army of French regular troops on three sides and the French fleet on the sea behind them. The French wisely allowed the scattered Americans to take the British formal surrender which infuriated Lord Cornwallis.
What to do what to do? On the one hand we hear that foreigners should stay out of civil wars and allow the people of the battle site to decide their own future. On the other we hear that those taking up a “noble cause” need to be helped against an “evil oppressor.” Not an easy question. I personally prefer letting the locals decide their fate.