Thursday, August 29, 2013


I don't know what the best solution might be for the current crisis in Syria. Not every problem has a solution, and maybe this is one of those. Certainly, none of the likely outcomes to any foreseeable scenario seems to promise anything like a good solution! Such is often the state of things.
Unfortunately, that is a discouraging fact that people often tend to ignore, especially when feeling self-righteous, a sentiment Syria's latest atrocity (as indeed it deserves to be called)has evoked among our chattering elites.
Unlike, for example, Mubarak's regime in Egypt, which was a trustworthy ally that kept peace with Israel and ensured some modicum of stability in the region, the Syrian regime seems to have no redeeming social value. Except, of course, that the Islamist alternative might be even worse for stability in the region (and for the survival of Syria's Christian minority). That means intervention against Assad - intervention to remove Assad - might well produce something even worse. At best, it would likely lead to a continued civil war as opposing factions fight each other brutally for the spoils. It's hard to see how those who claim to be motivated mainly by humanitarian considerations can see any satisfactory solution in that.
Of course, the US could, if it wanted to, do another Iraq and go in all the way. Assad would almost certainly go the way of Saddam Hussein. But the likely outcome would still be another civil war and more terrorism.
The fact that such an intervention is unlikely to produce a sufficiently better outcome to justify it, combined with the real fear of Russian intervention on behalf of its ally, combined with American war-weariness after 12 years of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq - all that more or less guarantees that such a full-scale intervention is off-the-table. That leaves the more limited options of air attacks not intended to destroy the regime, just to "punish" it for its sin of using chemical weapons. At best, that might result in Assad's not using them again - which is something, but not much of a consolation to the thousands of Syrians he has already slaughtered (and the many more he will probably slaughter in the future) by ordinary means. Of course, such a limited attack merely to "punish" Assad might weaken him sufficiently to give his enemies an edge, thus eventually ensuring either an endless civil war or an Islamist victory. It could also scare (or anger) Assad into spreading the war to Israel. And it could scare (or anger) the Russians to intervene in some fashion.
Really the only argument for such a limited intervention to "punish" Assad would be to maintain (or restore) US credibility - the US having brought this situation on itself with its earlier threat to react if Assad crossed that now infamous "red line." That is a legitimate argument. What further mischief might Iran or North Korea engage in if US threats are shown to be empty?
Perhaps the real lesson here is not to make such unwise threats in the first place. The use of such adolescent metaphors as crossing lines and red lines does little to advance our national interest, does little to further our national security and that of our allies, does little even to help us sort out our priorities beyond a culture of indignation against one particular style of slaughter.

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