From the little the media says, our government appears to become increasingly more involved in the Syrian Civil War. Every week there comes another report of Hilary Clinton or some other official urging us to intervene. The media relishes in reporting the brutal conflict’s civilian cost and how the Syrian government savagely stamps out freedom fighters (failing to report on the rebels’ brutality). Questioning intervention is a separate matter, but this is easily overruled by a simple fact: the Syrian rebels are connected to Al Qaeda. Our government should never support a terror organization, and especially not one at war with us.

It is undeniable and purely logical that our government is in some way involved with the Syrian rebels. The mentality in our government, military, and intelligence communities have not radically changed since the Cold War. And, judging from what we know of the Cold War, it is only reasonable to guess that our government has its eager fingers in the Arab Spring movements. This involvement could take  a number of forms. In some cases it is most likely a CIA presence, while others include covert forces aiding and training rebels. Finally, some cases include sending aid, supplies, and training to these groups. In the past, most notably in South Vietnam, supporting and advising has escalated until combat troops were sent to the scene.

From what we are able to reason, everything in Syria has been escalating to the point of more American involvement. Only a few days ago, President Obama announced that the Syrian rebels are the true government of Syria. Where the United Stats of America’s president receives such authority to declare what groups are and are not a country’s “true” leaders is out of the question. This legitimized role position now given to thugs and terrorists opens the door for more aid. Now our government doesn’t need to be so secretive about sending guns and support to terrorists.

While foreign aid, especially in cases like this, are important topics for discussion and debate, there are more pressing matters. Our government sends aid to many nations, yet they are not the same situation as Syria.

In matters of politics and world affairs, history stands as our greatest teacher. We only need to go back a few decades for a parallel: Vietnam. It started out as a relatively similar endeavor. In the fifties, we worried about the presence of the Communist North Vietnam. As a result, our government sent advisers and supplies to the South. Gradually this kept increasing, until finally the Gulf of Tonkin Incident occurred in 1964. During this incident, American Navy vessels came in contact with North Vietnamese vessels, with the latter firing on the former. (In addition to this, a second incident occurred, during which American vessels fired upon nonexistent North Vietnamese vessels.) As a result of this encounter, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. The resolution allowed sending American combat troops—not only advisers—to South Vietnam. We all know what happened after that: draftees and volunteers fought a war in Southeast Asia. Nearly 60,000 Americans died, and over 300,00 were wounded.

The Gulf of Tonkin must serve as a warning to the United States and all other nations. Before the North Vietnamese vessels fired on American vessels our government and military was only “advising.” Yes, one could make the argument that our military, in a larger sense, only acted in self-defense by sending more soldiers to Vietnam. But this twists the truth. The military would never have needed to act in self-defense if our government had not sent them to South Vietnam.

It is easy to envision something very similar happening in Syria. The war has been increasing in size and scope. The Syrian government allegedly fires SCUD missiles at its enemies, amid rumors of chemical warfare. But these news stories are not the most important. The truly important things to keep in mind are what our own governments are doing. The United States, apart from supporting the Syrian rebels, has now sent troops and missiles to Turkey. The troops and missiles are intended to aid Turkey’s defense. In the United Kingdom, David Cameron declared that the British Army has plans to intervene in Syria. There’s only one condition, though, the US must act first. In addition to the American troops and missiles deploying to Turkey “Germany and the Netherlands have already agreed to provide two batteries of the U.S.-built defense systems and send up to 400 German and 360 Dutch troops to man them, bringing the total number of Patriot batteries to be sent to Turkey to six.” This surely is escalating the conflict and involvement.

Even though it presents a level of difficulty to predict what might happen in Syria, a kind of no-fly zone might be imposed, in the same manner as Libya. Then something might happen to some of these American planes. One might be shot down.  The Islamic radicals within the Syrian rebels might even shoot down a plane—we already know they likely have the capabilities. These Islamic radicals, though aligned with the rebels, would know that more American involvement would bring the same result as Libya: an American-backed government, dominated by Islamists. Perhaps special forces, deployed without the public’s knowledge, might take heavy casualties or have some men held hostage. The reaction to any of these things would have to be either a sense of revenge and commitment, like Vietnam, or a grave mistake. With the Obama Administration’s actions, the former seems more likely. Though, we must remember that we cannot predict the future but only make educated predictions.

The United States’ involvement in Syria is an absurd foreign policy decision. Not only is our government meddling in a dangerous foreign conflict but aiding Al Qaeda in the process—with no sign of stopping. If something akin to the Gulf of Tonkin were to happen in Syria, our government might commit combat troops to Syria. The war then would be the same as Vietnam: long, difficult to win, and casualty-laden. Creating close ties to the rebels, necessary in such a situation, enables more harm to the United States. Keeping out of Syria does more than save lives and billions of dollars, it helps protect the United States.

Christian Lopac | Wabash College | @CLopac