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« Why the special relationship (US-Israel) isn't going anywhere | Main | The self-serving Military Industrial Complex fantasy that is AirSea Battle »
11:47AM

Syria: When US inaction accelerates a radicalizing dynamic

Nice op-ed by Joe Lieberman, John McCain and Lindsey Graham in WAPO.

The core argument:

We are hopeful the rebels will ultimately prevail, but it remains a deeply unfair and brutal fight, and the speed and manner by which it is won matter enormously. All evidence suggests that, rather than peacefully surrendering power, Assad and his allies will fight to the bitter end, tearing apart the country in the process.

America’s disengagement from this conflict carries growing costs — for the Syrian people and for U.S. interests.

Because we have refused to provide the rebels the assistance that would tip the military balance decisively against Assad, the United States is increasingly seen across the Middle East as acquiescing to the continued slaughter of Arab and Muslim civilians. This reluctance to lead will, we fear — like our failure to stop the slaughter of the Kurds and Shiites under Saddam Hussein in Iraq or of the Tutsis in Rwanda — haunt our nation for years to come.

Our lack of active involvement on the ground in Syria also means that, when the Assad regime finally does fall, the Syrian people are likely to feel little goodwill toward the United States — in contrast to Libya, where profound gratitude for America’s help in the war against Moammar Gaddafi has laid the foundation for a bright new chapter in relations between our two countries.

We are being left behind by events.  When Al-Qaida makes this a bigger cause celebre than America does, we lose by definition - by our abscence.

We keep trying to wind ourselves up over the chem weapons depots, but we should be more concerned with registering the anti-Iranian win in a way that benefits Israel - if we're serious about wanting to avoid war with Iran.  That's the bigger fish here, not the lowest common threat inflator of chemical arms.

There are plenty of ways to ramp up our involvement without boots on the ground.  WAPO ran an editorial recently calling for the always handy no-fly-zone.

We have entered the R2P space (right to protect), and what we need to protect most here is our credibility and the region from outcomes that make it less stable over the Arab Spring's continued unfolding.

I have, in the past, noted that the Arab Spring has been kind enough to us to offer the one-damn-thing-after-another dynamic.  Well, now's the time when we seriously deal with the one damn thing called Syria.

The Syrian PM just defected.  What are we waiting for?

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Reader Comments (9)

Would not a no fly first require an air campaign to take off line Syrian air defenses, command and control, etc.? Is that what we are talking about?

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick O'Connor

The West should support the secular democratic forces in Syria the best it can--even with weapoons and military aid.The more we support the secular democratic forces the better will be the outcome for a new Syria in comparison to the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists.Not supporting the secualr democratic forces means: Let the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist gain ground among the Syrian people.The outcome of the Arab spring is very different. In Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood is now the dominant force within the opposition , the Salafits won 20 % on the elections and are more importnat than the secualr parties with teir 15%--- that´s the bad news. However: In Lybia´s election the National Forces Alliance, a secular democratic party coalition won the elections before the Muslim Brotherhood party.The the Salafists around ex-Al-Kaida-member and military commander of Tripolis Belhaj were marginalized (2%).In Tunesia the Muslim brotherhood party Elnada won only 40% in the election and has to keep a moderate profile to build political coalitions with secular democratic forces.

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRalf Ostner

Didn't Security Council approval become irrelevant after the shootdown of the Turkish fighter by the Syrians?

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMartin Jacyno

A what point in history will Arabs stand up for Arabs?

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSteven

OK, so now I'm confused. Why was 'leading from behind' an appropriate strategy for Libya but not for Syria? What's different, and what should the US do?

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Emery

There no longer is any reason to wait. The "right to protect" and "duty to protect" are now operative. Assad is history -- the only question is how badly we lose as a result of a bloodbath we can help end. No-fly zone, or even destroy the air force on the ground. Perhaps also eliminate the tanks? In Iraq we took out 900 in 100 hours. The A-10 Thunderbolt is a great airplane for that task. Fantasy operation: if we know where Assad is, drop a 22,000 lb GBU-43/B MOAB onto the compound. Putin will be unhappy, but he can negotiate with the new government for some sort of post-revolution presence.

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph Lampe

Obama has led from behind long enough. Sufficient regional interest (all our GCC allies) has been translated into action. So has Turkish fear over the Kurds' expansionist dreams.

We've gone a full year on this. If Obama needs to organize something where others are more in the forefront, fine, but we're not even doing that. We're just acting like the Russians have a full veto.

That's simply too passive.

Talk NATO into leading something. Turkey is the legit excuse.

August 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTom Barnett

Well , even if NATO is intervening, destroying Assda´s airforce and tank army, I think that this is not strategic thinking. Ousting Assad has also to have an post-Assad plan. Means: How to enforce the democratic secular forces in Syria to become a counterweight against the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists (those Islamic terrorists which are supported by our beloved Saudi dictatorship--"our GCC allies")- The West should support the democratic secular forces in Syria with economic aid, militry aid and also build a Gladio-like underground infrastructure to prepare for the post-Assad time. This underground army could become important if the Muslim Brothers become too strong and turn against the West. It would be the best option to moderate the Muslimbrothers.The battle doesn´t end with the death of Assad, it will be just the beginning of new power struggles..

August 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRalf Ostner

Fantasy operation: if we know where Assad is, drop a 22,000 lb GBU-43/B MOAB onto the compound.

I don't think that'll work in Syria. Assad is the head of the Aliwite minority, which is both bigger and more entrenched than Qadaffi's tribe was in Libya. Removing Assad would definitely impact Command and Control for a while, but I'd expect the Aliwites to fight on, expecting that the alternative if they lose control of Syria would be "ethnic/religious cleansing" or substantial sectarian violence like we saw in Iraq.

(I'm with you on the A-10, best aircraft the USAF has, which has proven its value time and again in both high intensity First Gulf War and low intensity Iraq/Afghanistan. Why aren't they working on a replacement?)

August 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Emery

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