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Bomb Syria?


[by Mark Safranski a.k.a. "zen"]

There is much ado about a prospective Western (i.e. American) aerial campaign to bomb the Iranian allied Alawite-Baathist dictatorship Syria over use of chemical weapons against primarily al Qaida allied Sunni Islamist extremist rebels.

To what end or how that end will be brought about by a surgical use of American air power, aided by token French and British contributions, well, no one is quite sure.

The driving insider force behind this astrategic call to arms are Susan Rice, Samantha Power and Anne-Marie Slaughter, the three Furies of R2P.  Slaughter writes on military intervention in Syria with her usual combination of moral certainty and operational magical thinking here. Rice angrily pontificates here while an unusually muted UN Ambassador Samantha Power just tweeted about it while on vacation from the emergency UN Security Council meeting on, uh, Syria.

The strategic argument about Syria is not about the normative qualities of the Assad regime, which is anti-American, brutal, terrorist supporting and fascistic. Or that the regime is committing atrocities. It is. It is about what political objective, if any, the use of military force against Syria can accomplish at what cost and with what probable outcomes. At a grand strategic level, there are also questions about how military intervention in Syria will impact great power relations and the shaping of international law.

I suspect many R2P advocates like Slaughter, Rice and Power are attracted to the idea of bombing Syria partly to garner a precedent to support doing similar things in the future, whether or not it has any positive effect on the Syrian civil war. That however, if true, is an extremely poor reason for military intervention anywhere. If bombing had some hope of changing the behavior of the Syrian regime or replacing it with something better, I would warm to the prospect but where is the evidence that is a likely outcome? Consider:

The Syrian rebels include armed groups as violent, lawless and squalid as the Assad regime. You know, the Beheading community of the third jihad international, with fringe support from the occasional cannibal commandos. If these Islamist lunatics come to power in Damascus they will cheerfully engage in ghastly pogroms of mass murder and torture that will make Assad’s goons look like the British Raj at tea time.

The Assad regime and the Alawite minority from whence it originates have their backs to the wall in a conflict that determines if they continue to rule Syria or are exterminated. Having no margin for maneuver or concession, America bombing them is irrelevant to whether in their calculus they can stop fighting their local enemies. The whole point of combining the threat of force with diplomacy – allegedly the reason given for bombing Syria – is to be able to make Assad an offer that he can’t refuse and not a threat that the Alawites can’t accept. Then, while blustering loudly and ominously we undercut our own bellicose posturing and announce that regime change was off the table. WTF?  Really?

The President should fire this unholy crew of incompetents and intellectual poseurs and hire some real foreign policy advisers with at least an undergraduate level grasp of how diplomacy, strategy and war have worked for the past 2000 years.

Failing that, a few poker players who can bluff without showing the entire table their cards.

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7 Responses to “Bomb Syria?”

  1. historyguy99 Says:

    The supposed good guys are riddled with AQ types who as seen in this very GRAPHIC video, are also committing the most gruesome crimes. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fOvtD5U7xrM

      

  2. Marshall Says:

    When both the hawks and the doves think a move is stupid, and when every single person who has any strategic perspective thinks a move is stupid, and when the historical analogy for making the move is (a) a bad analogy in the first place; (b) doesn’t demonstrate that making the move worked back then either in the second place; (c) led to a stupid present in the third and final place, then making the move is probably stupid.

    This does, however, fit with my theory that every US President has to have his very own war. Bah, humbug.

  3. seydlitz89 Says:

    zen-
    .
    Agree in general.  A fine pickle of a confused mess.  This seems to be about getting the US involved in the Syrian civil war, now.  There doesn’t seem to be much more beyond it, one gets the impression that the US leadership is allowing itself to be maneuvered into this . . . the US military as an “instrument”, but whose instrument exactly?  For what purpose?  How much is it all really about Iran?  We see here perhaps one of the greatest dangers of strategic dysfunction . . . 
    .
    Is the Assad regime “anti-American”?  If we bomb them they will be.  The actual history of our relations since 1991 is a mixed bag.  They supported Bush I in the First Gulf War, sent a division to Saudi. Through the 1990s there were several summits between President Clinton and Assad.  They were a prime choice for sending renditioned prisoners during GWB’s CIA run “torture airlifts”, so we didn’t have any problem then with the “brutal” aspect.  They didn’t support the Iraq war, but then that was a stupid idea, maybe we should have listened.  We supported their opposition with cash payments which probably pissed their govt off.  Hillary referred to Assad as a “reformer” as late as 2011.  
    .
    The Syrians follow more their own interests than attempting to curry favor with us, but does that make them “anti-American”?  As to supporting “terrorism”, sure, but how would you rate them say in comparison with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, two of our “bestest buddies”? 

  4. Curtis Gale Weeks Says:

    I only wish that Rice had been named or married into the name of Death or Destruction.  Then the triumvirate would have been complete.

    .

    “we undercut our own bellicose posturing and announce that regime change was off the table. WTF?” —pretty much my reaction to that.

    .

    There has been some talk that a perpetual stalemate in Syria is the only “good” outcome for the U.S.—which imo is ridiculous.  The alternative is that one side or the other win; at least, that Assad stays or goes.    Some hysterics have been freaking about the possibility that AQ will benefit from a U.S. strike against Assad, but I ask, So what?  By those measurements, we lose no matter which side wins, we lose whether we act to remove Assad or act to keep him in place. But there is more at stake than Assad vs AQ.  There is the balance of power in the region; there is Russia’s Putin.  Measuring the costs and benefits of action should not exclude a measurement of the costs and benefits of inaction or disengagement.  My own knee-jerk reaction is that anything, and I mean anything, which irks Putin is a good thing.  But that is only the initial knee-jerk reaction.  There might be exceptions.    

  5. Lynn C. Rees Says:

    real foreign policy advisers with at least an undergraduate level grasp of how diplomacy, strategy and war have worked for the past 2000 years”

     

    Who are these magical people and where have they been hiding? 

  6. Bob Morris Says:

    Obama drew a line in the quicksand and now will look inane regardless of what happens. The reaction against a Syria intervention is huge and worldwide. A poll in Israel shows the populace overwhelmingly opposed to it, even more than here. This is a sea change.

    There are also interesting new alliances forming, like between right libertarians and left anti-authoritarians. Ron Paul and Glenn Beck hugely approve what Snowden did and oppose more wars. So do many left of liberal.

  7. Obama drew a line in quicksand on Syria, blunders on Says:

    [...] Zenpundit dissects the mess the US is blundering into, and points out Assad is in a death match with the rebels and a bomb or two from the US will make no difference, especially since the US says regime change is off the table anyway. The Syrian rebels include armed groups as violent, lawless and squalid as the Assad regime. You know, the Beheading community of the third jihad international, with fringe support from the occasional cannibal commandos. If these Islamist lunatics come to power in Damascus they will cheerfully engage in ghastly pogroms of mass murder and torture that will make Assad’s goons look like the British Raj at tea time. [...]

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