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  • total.illogic total.illogic May 3, 2013 11:31 PM Flag

    Do not go into Syria

    America should not intervene in Syria. But a pair of presidential screw-ups may force us to.

    War drums are beating once again in Washington.

    The Syrian civil war has left 70,000 dead over the last two years. Roughly 1.3 million people have been driven from their homes, with some living in caves to escape the shelling. The stories are horrifying. No one with a conscience can fail to be moved by the suffering of the Syrian people or outraged by the actions of Bashar al-Assad's dictatorial regime in Damascus. But that doesn't mean that calls for the U.S. to intervene militarily make sense. On the contrary, such suggestions are profoundly foolish.

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    The case for intervention has been weak from the beginning, and it's been getting steadily weaker. Yes, the rebels oppose the execrable Assad regime, but many of them also appear to be jihadists. Would a post-Assad Syria be more free or less free than it is now? More democratic or less democratic? Better for women or worse for women? No one knows. Recent press reports indicating that at least some of the rebels are allied with al Qaeda certainly don't inspire high hopes. (Sometimes the enemy of our enemy is an even worse enemy.) Then there's the fact that Russia and China continue to oppose any action to topple the Syrian dictator, and flagrantly antagonizing them could make U.S. policymaking much more complicated in other parts of the globe.

    Why, then, are the interventionists gaining traction now? Because last August President Obama warned the Syrian dictator that he considered the use of chemical weapons in the conflict a "red line" — and it now appears that Assad has crossed it.

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    On this the interventionists are right: When the president makes a threat, he has to follow through on it — otherwise, our ability to deter Iran, North Korea, and China (in the Taiwan Strait) will be severely undermined. Which means that Obama may be about to get us mixed up in yet another war in the Middle East.

    This may be his gravest foreign policy blunder to date.

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      ith evidence mounting that Syria's armed forces have started using chemical weapons against rebels, the Obama administration is reportedly considering getting more deeply involved in the country's bloody civil war by sending arms to some of the opposition fighters. Republican senators are putting pressure on President Obama to act fast, saying that the move is long overdue. But a key question persists: After more than two years of fighting and 70,000-plus deaths, would giving the rebels greater power really give them the boost they need to topple President Bashar al-Assad's regime?

      Some analysts say the answer is no. Obama is reportedly considering supplying rebels with everything from communications gear to armored vehicles to shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles. "That military gear can prolong the conflict, preventing dictator Bashar Assad from crushing the rebels," says Spencer Ackerman at Wired. "It is unlikely to tip the balance of the war toward the rebels so they can decisively" win.

      Assad has a variety of advantages — an adaptive military estimated at over 50,000; complete air superiority; chemical weapons — that he will retain even if Obama opens a new arms pipeline. Overcoming those advantages means getting, at the least, U.S. and allied airpower involved — a step the Obama administration, and especially the military, want to avoid. Especially since it might involve shooting down Iranian planes, a fateful step. [Wired]

      It's still worth a shot, others say. Early in Syria's uprising, "a sharp diplomatic and economic shove might have convinced elements of the regime to give up on the Assad family," says Michael Gerson at The Washington Post. But Obama wanted to avoid wading into another conflict in the Middle East, in hopes of "improving the image of America in the Islamic world." Things obviously didn't pan out. Now he's "missed the moment," and the best we can hope for is limiting the damage we could face from "a civil war at the heart of the Middle East that destabilizes friendly governments, empowers jihadists, increases sectarian tensions across the region, and allows Iran broader opportunities for mischief."

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