US Edging Closer to Syria War
Published on: June 13, 2013
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  • Andrew Allison

    It’s too late! The failure to act quickly has resulted in a lose-lose situation. The civil war in Syria has become sectarian; intervening on behalf of the rebels with simply inflame the anti-American passions of Shiite radicals.

  • Matthew Brotchie

    In light of this news, I hope Prof Mead will once again shed light on the ongoing persecution and slaughter of the ancient christian communities of that region.

    From a recent article by Andrew Doran:

    Those Iraqi Christians who fled to America would fare little better in
    seeking asylum. Many Chaldeans and Assyrians were detained, until their
    cases were heard, in what an attorney familiar with Chaldean-asylum
    cases describes as “prisons,” adding that she “never worked on a case
    where a Chaldean was granted asylum, but I heard that it happened.”
    Throughout these deportation proceedings, the administration and the
    State Department steadfastly refused to recognize the conditions—which
    the U.S. had helped to bring about—as “persecution.” In consequence,
    most were deported.”

  • Pete

    Getting involved in Syria is crazy.

    It will set back U.S. national interest in the long run.

  • Corlyss

    Late and ineffectual, as usual. Besides, he can mull over important matters for a very long time. Look how long it took him to decide on a red line, and then to find it when it was crossed.

  • Anthony

    “The United States has concluded that the Syrian government used chemical weapons…. Clinton calls on Obama to act forcefully in Syria” – to balance Russians, Iranians, and Hezbollah.

    So, here we are: stepping up scope and scale (intervention by any other name); also as the problem with Iran remains unsolved (isn’t there always an unsolved problem in region) and remains an integral component of our choice going forward, what are our regional interests as well as long term goals? Similarly, does aiding SMC quicken Assad’s demise/stepping down? Finally, are there national security concerns?

  • wigwag

    Yes, the whole thing is complicated, but there are some obvious strategic moves if Obama is smart enough to take them. The key is to remember that the United States shouldn’t care whether Syria is controlled by Assad or some other despot. Why should the United States give a damn whether the Sunni and Alawite Syrians rule the country? With its infrastructure destroyed and any sense of social cohesion annihilated Syria as a nation state is kaput for years and probably decades into the future.

    The real goal should be reducing the chances that we will need to go to war with Iran over its nuclear weapons program. The best way to do that is not by destroying the Assad regime; even if it survives, it’s toast. Instead we should be targeting the one effective ally that Iran has in the world, Hezbollah. Forget a no fly zone over Syria and instead bomb Hezbollah’s strongholds in Lebanon.

    This would accomplish several things; (1) with its key ally weakened or destroyed Iran might be more amenable to a genuine compromise; (2) it would dramatically stabilize Lebanon; (3) it would reduce the risk of Hezbollah rockets killing Israeli civilians; (4) it would avenge all the U.S. marines murdered by the terrorist organization in more than one attack in Lebanon and elsewhere; (5) even if he survived, it would make Assad far more likely to sue for peace; (6) it would send a message to the Shia in Iraq that there allies in Iran are more isolated than ever and that making peace with the Sunni world by compromising with Iraqi Sunnis would be the most prudent course of action; (7) given Hezbollah’s current unpopularity in the Sunni world it would finally give Obama the opportunity he has long sought to build his popularity with the Sunni street. This is a far better strategy than trying to curry favor with Arabs by talking tough to Israel. Sunni Arabs may disdain Israel, but, especially now, they loathe the Shia.

    The other thing Obama should be doing is arming, training and supporting the Syrian Kurds. They’re the good guys. The United States should insist on a Kurdish autonomous region in whatever remains of Syria and the Kurdish region should be large enough to insure access to the sea. This would be a great down payment on what should be our ultimate goal; the creation of a Kurdish state encompassing Kurds from Syria, Iraq and Iran and maybe, just maybe someday Turkey.

    If Obama adopted this strategy he would be turning lemons into lemonaide.

    • USNK2

      Excellent reasons, and, yes, the real goal.
      Perhaps someone will report on the mystery-worse-than-SARSvirus in Saudi Arabia, what with the Haj starting July 9 (I think).

      As for Mr. Mead’s characterization: “… It’s as if the Middle East were simultaneously experiencing the French Revolution and the Thirty Years’ War …”

      I guess he saw the Youtube of Turkish citizens in Taksim Square singing Les Miserables: Duyuyor musun bizi? İşte çapulcunun sesi” (Do you hear the people sing?).

      • wigwag

        Remember, until last month there was a stalemate in Syria between Assad and the rebels. That stalemate was very much in our interest.

        What broke the stalemate was the decision of Hezbollah to go all in for the Assad regime. Neuter Hezbollah through a massive bombing campaign and the stalemate between Assad and the rebels could easily resume. If it does, the United States will find it less necessary to send arms to the rebels that are likely to eventually end up in the hands of the Sunni extremists.

        The key is not confronting Assad; it’s confronting the group that both Assad and Iran desperately need. We should be targeting Hezbollah.

  • Anthony

    This is the worst Via Meadia piece I have ever read, hands down. Intervening in Syria is a terrible idea. Above all, our country needs to work on improving the economy. And in terms of foreign policy, we must not get distracted from the central problem of prepared to counter Chinese aggression. It’s important to take a more conciliatory attitude toward Russia in the future, since they will be needed in a coalition in Asia to balance China.

  • Tom Lindmark

    Wagging the dog, maybe? Nothing like a little military action to grab the headlines. I just hope we don’t blow up any baby formula plants this time.

    • ljgude

      Well we find ourselves in the normal second term soap opera when the opposition either gins up a bunch of scandals or the administration serves them up on a silver platter. Clinton blew up an aspirin factory to distract us from Monica and Bush got that famous baby milk manufactory. What should Obama get? A girl’s school perhaps?

  • As much as my heart bleeds for the unfortunate victims of this conflict, I see no good reason why American men and women should bleed with them.

    This is not our war.

  • Matt B

    This piece is far too kind to Obama. No, we don’t see his secret briefings, but his national security team does, and they unanimously advocated arming the rebels months ago. It is another example of his signature blend of arrogance and naiveté that he overruled them all. Now we’ll get involved at a much higher cost with greatly diminished hopes of a manageable outcome. Obama’s handling of Syria is a debacle, an unmitigated disaster, and let’s not pretend it’s anything else.

    Yes being President is hard. Some people are up to the job; the current occupant is not.

  • ljgude

    I have the strong premonition that Obama will not attempt to get the support of Congress just as he did with Libya. I freely admit it would be good politics to do so, and that all logic tells me I am wrong. In my defense I can only say that my sense of Obama is that he has a unilateral streak that makes his predecessor seem mild by comparison. I also hear that he is considering importing large numbers of Syrian refugees to our shores while supporting, among other unsavory types, al Qaeda in Syria. I also feel strongly that he will try to support the Sunnis with air power and arms as he did in Libya but not directly with troops. I agree with Wig Wag the real problem is Iran and Hezbollah, but I don’t expect Obama to actually confront any real problem. Better to talk of ‘red lines’ and apply half measures. I’ll say one thing – two years of civil war in Syria has done for nearly 100,000. Iraqbodycount.com (antiwar and anti Bush so I tend to believe them) is still toting up cadavers in Iraq since 2003 and has gotten to 123,000. Marvelous, as Dirty Harry would say.

    • Pete

      “I also hear that he is considering importing large numbers of Syrian refugees to our shores .. ”

      Heaven forbid.

      Let Arab ‘refugees’ stay in Arabia; they don’t fit in here. Fact.

      • ljgude

        Yes. Heaven forbid. My sentiments exactly.

    • wigwag

      Iran had three real allies and one potential ally in the world. The potential ally was the Sunni street that admired Iran’s belligerence to the United States and Israel. With the onset of the Shia-Sunni civil war, that ship has sailed.

      In terms of its real allies, the Syrian regime is in extremis; even if it survives, it’s little use to Iran. The Alliance between Iran and Hamas has been severed because when given the choice of supporting their benefactors in Iran or their ideological soul mates fighting Assad, Hamas couldn’t resist backing its Shia brethren. The only effective friend Iran has left is Hezbollah.

      If we severely weaken or destroy Hezbollah through a bombing campaign, Iran will be left with literally no allies. This might induce the Iranians to sue for peace on the nuclear issue.

      Of course an Iran berift of allies might even feel a stronger urge to acquire nuclear weapons. In this case the United States would still need to bomb Iran. But with its allies neutered, Iran’s ability to respond asymmetrically (it’s modus operendi) would be severely hindered.

      • ljgude

        I hear you about Iran and Hezbollah. I’m just not convinced that Obama will go so far as attacking Hezbollah in Lebanon, let alone Iran itself. A step too far for his post colonial tendencies. If I were the president I would use the Syrian conflict to neutralize Hezbollah and drop the really big bunker busters on Iran’s nuclear program if there is still time.

  • Anthony

    WRM, your essay provides outlines and contemporary background to Syrian civil war and Middle East generally. However, the question remains expanding scope and scale of intervention avails United States (strategically, tactically, militarily, regionally, globally, economically, politically, and domestically) what?

  • Atanu Maulik

    A goal of any realist policy should be to make sure that the war does not end quickly. This does not require that America put any boots on the ground and costs could be a rounding error for the Pentagon. Syria has no oil and otherwise has zero strategic significance for America. The goal of America should be to make sure that this war drags on and on and eat up as many supporters as possible of the prophet who went to heaven on a winged horse. This is a great chance to make sure that all the pretensions and dreams of a Global Islamic Caliphate drowns in Muslim blood in Syria.

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