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Syria: No Good Options

As Assad creeps ever-closer to the edge, the Obama administration is making contingency plans should the Syrian regime fall. The NY Times lists some of the concerns keeping American policy makers awake at night:

A huge worry, administration officials said, is that in desperation Mr. Assad would use chemical weapons to try to quell the uprising.


The Obama administration must also worry about Mr. Assad’s arsenal, including chemical weapons, falling into other hands, including those of Al Qaeda. . . .


Beyond trying to stop the Assad government from using unconventional weapons, the United States must also work to make sure that the Alawite minority, ascendant under Mr. Assad and largely loyal to him, is not massacred once its protector is gone.

Add to that the possibility that things will continue on as they have been, with the Assad regime holding on and the conflict intensifying without Assad resorting to unconventional weapons, and you see that there really are few rosy scenarios for the administration to work toward. Lebanon, for example, is a smaller country whose problems are similar to Syria’s (though less intense). But U.S. presidents like Eisenhower and Reagan have never had any success using troops to stabilize it.

There are times in foreign policy when none of your choices are pretty, and the best you can do is hope that good luck will keep you from having to do something that you don’t like. So let’s wish Washington’s planners well, and hope for the good luck they (and the suffering people of Syria) need so very much.

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  • Jbird

    I wouldn’t support American boots on the ground in Syria. How much of a stomach is there in Turkey and/or Jordan for sending in troops if the US agrees to provide air and naval support as needed? I don’t pretend to be an expert on the region, but Turkey has a long established historic claim to Syria and they are pushing to be a regional power. If they can’t pacify a country right in their back yard, at the same time peeling off a chief ally from their primary rival Iran, what kind of power are they? If something similar were occurring in Cuba, like the shelling of civilians and the threat of chemical weapons, wouldn’t we involve ourselves?

  • Cunctator

    I think that Assad would want to keep his WMD stocks close by to use as a bargaining chip if his regime falls. How else will he buy a safe refuge for him and his family? He might use them in a limited way to show what he is capable of doing, and of threatening to do worse, but mainly their use now is as a form of political messaging.

    Of course he might still think he can regain control. If that is so, then all bets are off and he might use the WMD stocks to eliminate opponents or punish civilians who support them. He knows who Obama is, and so I doubt he is very concerned about US intervention right now. Like Iran, Assad will want to stretch the civil war as long as possible so that he is protected by the US welection. No US invasion before November, is probably his watchword.

    Regardless of what happens, we should not allow ourselves to be diverted by events in Syria. The principal threat in the region is Iran and its pursuit of nukes, not a civil war in Syria.

  • Mark in Texas

    How soon before the America hating Islamic dictatorship with alliances to our enemies replaces the America hating secular dictatorship with alliances to our enemies?

    I am reminded of the time in the 1980s when the Iran-Iraq war began and Henry Kissinger was asked which side we should want to win. Kissinger replied neither. Kissinger said that we should want to see a long, bloody war that ends in a stalemate. Subsequent events showed that was a good call. How could we encourage a long and bloody civil war that ends in a stalemate in Syria?

  • JJ in Illinois

    The best way to insure that the chemical weapons stockpiles don’t fall into the wrong hands is to see to it they fall into the right hands. If the US supplied logistic and command support while the OAS provided air cover (based in Incirlik, Turkey) then the Turks and Jordanians could go in and secure the country militarily and the chem weapons. Of course, ending a civil war takes troops (preferably Turks and Jordanians here), F-16s (from Saudi and UAE) perhaps a few SF teams and most of all a little chutzpah from the White House. All but the last seem available.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    I say give war a chance; cultures recognize the truth of “trial by combat” in measuring which culture is superior. For example: the superior western model Israeli culture has given humiliating defeats to the backward Arab cultures repeatedly, despite a massive numerical disadvantage. I think the fight in Syria is between the backward Sunni and Shiite cultures, and so the winner is going to still be a backward culture, so there will be little improvement no matter who wins.

    “Example is the school of mankind, and they will learn at no other.” Edmund Burke

    Lessons will be learned even if nothing seems to get any better. We learn more from our mistakes than we ever do from our successes.

    I think the lesson of the Arab Spring is that the backward Islamic culture has had to give lip service to the superior western cultural attribute of Democracy which is inimical to their hunger for power. This will turn around and bite them on the ass in the future, guaranteed.

  • Walter Sobchak

    The best we can hope for now is that the ethnoi comprising Syria separate themselves into cantons like the Post WWI French map of Syria and that we can bring in UN peace keepers, to patrol the borders between the cantons.

    It is like catching a knuckleball. Wait for it to stop rolling, and then pick it up.

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