By Greg Smith

A hint government has grown too large is when it spends billions to keep tobacco cheap and growers in business while simultaneously spending billions to get people to not use tobacco products. Only such a bloated colossus could contemplate attacking both sides in someone else’s civil war.

Since the 1930s the federal government has provided various types of assistance to agricultural interests. It became apparent just over 50 years ago that smoking was bad for one’s health – causing direct government expense with the inception of Medicare and Medicaid. In just the past decade the federal government paid $1 billion a year to tobacco farmers.

We want to keep farmers in business, but we don’t want anyone to actually use their product. And a bridge to nowhere surprised you.

The government side of the Syrian civil war features a rather brutal dictator named Assad who the United Nations believes used chemical weapons in the war. The rebel side has a wide assortment of groups, including the rather brutal Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which as its name indicates is active in both countries. An ISIS army recently rumbled across the border into Iraq, appeared headed to Baghdad leaving a blood bath in its wake.

President Obama wants to launch air strikes against the Assad regime, and is preparing to authorize strikes against ISIS in Syria.

Both ISIS and the Assad regime merit some well-placed high explosives, but from a strategic standpoint attacks against both the Assad regime and ISIS in Syria will only cancel each other out unless the U.S. – the only nation with the military capacity – is willing to make a major commitment, including putting at least some troops on the ground toward a decisive event ousting Assad and leaving forces in place to assist the non-jihadist rebels.

Even if that level of involvement came to pass the U.S. doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to micromanaging other peoples’ conflicts by providing assistance to “moderate” groups. Ask the Kurds about our history of backing the right horse. Obviously, the Obama administration will not pursue that level of involvement so getting drawn in against both sides is a waste of money and potentially the lives of American service members.

The U.S. has a vested interest in keeping Iraq stable and in one piece to give elected government the chance to survive. Any ISIS fighters that wander into Iraq are fair game. But competing interests in Syria make it wise, at least for now, to leave any engagement to keeping rebels supplied and able to maintain the field.

Iran wants to cooperate with the U.S. against ISIS. Strike one! The Assad government in Syria has offered to coordinate with attacks on ISIS. Strike two! ISIS has recently made noise about attacking Russia. Strike three.

So U.S. attacks on ISIS in Syria will benefit Russia, Iran and the Assad government in Damascus. Winston Churchill said “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” ISIS is not our friend, but they are the enemy of several of our enemies. Military forces not used in Syria can just as well be used to defend Iraq and allow ISIS to continue attacking our enemies.

Waiting to act against ISIS in Syria until the pros and cons are less ambiguous is, for now, the best policy. From an American strategic perspective, ISIS is clearly the least of the four evils involved.   ©

Greg Smith is a freelance writer and political consultant who lives in Bantam, CT. His blog is found at www.betterfatthanfascist.com.