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Horror Stories from the Place Formerly Known as Syria

Protestors Rally Outside UN General Assembly

Militiamen murder women and children and extinguish entire family lines. A rebel commander executes a dozen men on video. Another eats the heart of an enemy. “These are the images of Syrian conflict,” Reuters reports, “the first war in which the prevalence of camera phones and Internet access has allowed hundreds of gruesome war crimes to be broadcast, spreading hatred and fear.”

Welcome to the place once known as Syria.

“Syria is so badly shattered that no single authority is likely to be able to pull it back together any time soon,” reports Ben Hubbard in a front-page, game-changing article for the New York Times. “Instead, three Syrias are emerging: one loyal to the government, to Iran and to Hezbollah; one dominated by Kurds with links to Kurdish separatists in Turkey and Iraq; and one with a Sunni majority that is heavily influenced by Islamists and jihadis.”

Endless American dithering over what to do in Syria has produced an endless war, and the country, always fragile, has disintegrated. The consequences will be with us for a long time to come, and most of them won’t be much fun to live with.

Syria’s government almost always sided with the bad guys in the Middle East, but the replacement of an ugly yet stable and predictable government in Damascus with a free-fire zone of chaos, Iranian adventurism, and jihadi barbarity is not an improvement.

American interests (and humanitarian values) would have been far better served by a serious attempt to shorten the war and help the rebels prevail at an early stage in the conflict before a long war and endless chain of atrocities radicalized all parties and wrecked Syrian society. Now the worst case scenario has been achieved and the US has no good options left.

And by the way, US dithering is also a factor in Iraq’s ongoing meltdown. As Michael Knights writes for Foreign Policy, “Armed civilian militias are reactivating, tit-for-tat bombings are targeting Sunni and Shiite mosques, and some Iraqi military forces are breaking down into ethnic-sectarian components or suffering from chronic absenteeism. Numerous segments of Iraq’s body politic—Kurdish, Sunni Arab, and Shia—are exasperated over the government’s inability to address political or economic inequities, and are talking seriously about partition.”

With the best intentions in the world and seeking only peace, Washington has embarked on a policy that will create a radicalizing, jihadi war that stretches from Basra to Beirut.

[A woman protests Assad outside the UN Headquarters on September 26, 2012. Getty Images.]

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  • Bob_from_Ohio

    The chaos in Syria is very much in the US interest. Israel’s too.

    Our enemies are killing each other. Its all good.

    • Fred

      _Our enemies are killing each other. Its all good._

      Yes, but a broad war in the Middle East that destroys some percentage of oil production and interferes with oil distribution is not. I don’t much care if those savages kill each other. It’s not only what they do best; it’s the only thing they do well. But I do mind the economic consequences of an oil shutoff, even a partial one.

  • Felipe Pait

    “A serious attempt to shorten the war and help the rebels prevail at an early stage in the conflict” is what the US and European allies did in Libya. Yet you don’t seem very supportive of the Libya action.

    Now one may say that US intervention was required in both cases; or not justified in either. However if the US had to pick one, Libya was by far the best prospect. It didn’t turn out perfectly, of course; but an intervention in Syria would have been far worse, and less feasible because of Russian veto.

  • Eric J.

    When you look at things from a broad, historical view, the obvious solution is the one thing that would never happen: a Pax Judea.

    • Jim Luebke

      Consider for a moment how small and isolated Israel is, and how large a swath of territory and how large a population we’re talking about — Morocco to Pakistan, really, at least a billion people. How would such a small country keep the peace over so many larger ones?

      I suppose divide-and-rule would work; you could keep them in a constant state of disorder bordering on civil war, reduce their technology to pre-Renaissance levels (or at least well away from the state-of-the-art), and impoverish their citizens so that they were incapable of any kind of effective action either on their own behalf or against their opponents.

      However, as a deliberate policy, that would be absolutely inhuman — something which someone as humane as our host could never support.

  • David Riceman

    “Endless American dithering over what to do in Syria has produced an endless war”.

    Whereas in Iraq, where we intervened with great energy, there is also endless civil war.

  • Luke Lea

    Let’s see, ten years in Iraq and we get ethnic chaos. Zero time in Syria and we get ethnic chaos. A few months in Libya and we get ethnic chaos next door and maybe in Libya also. What’s the magic number?

    I don’t know about everybody else but I’m for keeping the king of Jordan in power no matter what, at least for the foreseeable future.

  • Kevin

    Lordy – Via Media wishes we had done in in Syria what we did in Libya…but decries what we did Libya.

    The SOF agreement in Iraq was put in place by Bush and when Obama went to negotiate final status Iraq wouldn’t give us immunity from prosecution…so we left (at their request).

    I know I know Obama’s Wilsonianism is bad and you wish he’d be a little like what? an incompetent neoconservative (a la Bush)?

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