Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Case for Staying Out of Syria

Foreign policy expert Daniel Pipes of the Hoover Institute argues compellingly that the United States should avoid overt involvement in Syria:
As the Syrian government makes increasingly desperate and vicious efforts to keep power, pleas for military intervention, more or less on the Libyan model, have become more insistent. This course is morally attractive, to be sure. But should Western states follow this counsel? I believe not.

Those calls to action fall into three main categories: a Sunni Muslim concern for co-religionists, a universal humanitarian concern to stop torture and murder, and a geopolitical worry about the impact of the ongoing conflict. The first two motives can be fairly easily dispatched. If Sunni governments – notably those of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar - choose to intervene on behalf of fellow Sunnis against Alawis, that is their prerogative but Western states have no dog in this fight.
Pipes considers the reasons, including the humanitarian rationale, for intervening in Syria and finds them all problematic. He then looks at the matter from a purely strategic point of view and writes this: Finally (as earlier was the case in Iraq), protracted conflict in Syria offers some geopolitical advantages:
  • It lessens the chances of Damascus starting a war with Israel or re-occupying Lebanon.
  • It increases the chances that Iranians, living under the thumb of the mullahs who are Assad's key ally, will draw inspiration from the Syrian uprising and likewise rebel against their rulers.
  • It inspires greater Sunni Arab anger at Tehran, especially as the Islamic Republic of Iran has been providing arms, finance, and technology to help repress Syrians.
  • It relieves the pressure on non-Muslims: indicative of the new thinking, Jordanian Salafi leader Abou Mohamad Tahawi recently stated that "The Alawi and Shi'i coalition is currently the biggest threat to Sunnis, even more than the Israelis."
  • It foments Middle Eastern rage at Moscow and Beijing for supporting the Assad regime.
There's more at the link but the upshot is that we're better off staying out of the Syrian morass. I agree that we should not do what we did in Libya, but then I didn't think we should do in Libya what we did in Libya. Nevertheless, anything we can do, short of direct military involvement that would save lives, prevent massacres, and make life miserable for Bashar Assad and his lovely wife, should be on the table.