Skip to comments.Stay out of the Syrian Morass
Posted on 06/13/2012 9:22:53 AM PDT by bayouranger
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.
Generalized humanitarian concerns face problems of veracity, feasibility, and consequence. Anti-regime insurgents, who are gaining on the battlefield, appear responsible for at least some atrocities. Western electorates may not accept the blood and treasure required for humanitarian intervention. It must succeed quickly, say within a year. The successor government may (as in the Libyan case) turn out even worse than the existing totalitarianism. Together, these factors argue compellingly against humanitarian intervention.
Foreign policy interests should take precedence because Westerners are not so strong and safe that they can look at Syria only out of concern for Syrians; rather, they must view the country strategically, putting a priority on their own security.
Robert Satloff of the Washington Institute for Near Eastern Policy has helpfully summarized in The New Republic reasons why a Syrian civil war poses dangers to U.S. interests: the Assad regime could lose control of its chemical and biological arsenal; it could renew the PKK insurgency against Ankara; regionalize the conflict by pushing its Palestinian population across the Jordanian, Lebanese, and Israeli borders; and fight the Sunnis of Lebanon, reigniting the Lebanese civil war. Sunnis jihadi warriors, in response, could turn Syria into the global nexus of violent Islamist terrorism one bordering NATO and Israel. Finally, he worries that a protracted conflict gives Islamists greater opportunities than does one that ends quickly.
To which I reply: Yes, the WMDs could go rogue but I worry more about their ending up in the hands of an Islamist successor government. A renewed PKK insurgency against the hostile government ruling Turkey, or increased Sunni-Alevi tensions in that country, hardly rank as major Western concerns. Expelling Palestinians would barely destabilize Jordan or Israel. Lebanon is already a balkanized mess; and, as opposed to the 1976-91 period, internal fighting underway there only marginally affects Western interests. The global jihad effort has limited resources; the location may be less than ideal, but what better than for it to fight the Pasdaran (Iran's Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) to the death in Syria?
As for time working against Western interests: even if the Syrian conflict ended immediately, I foresee almost no prospect of a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional government emerging. Whether sooner or later, after Assad and his lovely wife decamp, Islamists will likely seize power, Sunnis will take vengeance, and regional tensions will play out within Syria.
Also, overthrowing the Assad regime does not mean the sudden end of Syria's civil war. More likely, Assad's fall will lead to Alawi and other Iranian-backed elements resisting the new government. Moreover, as Gary Gambill points out, Western military involvement could embolden opposition to the new government and prolong the fighting. Finally (as earlier was the case in Iraq), protracted conflict in Syria offers some geopolitical advantages:
* It lessens the chances of Damascus from 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.
Western interests suggest staying out of the Syrian morass.
Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. © 2012 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.
The White House has moreass than it can handle already.
Depends on how much physical gold Assad has in his vaults. If it’s as much as Khadafy had, the West will probaly engage in the same type of humanitarian intervention. :)
I feel sorry for the children. With that said, I don’t give a $hit what happens in those Arab countries. After seeing those muzzies jump for joy while our people are jumping out of the WT towers made me sick.
I wish that I could, but I cannot, knowing that they are being radicalized and in time many of them will become jihadists and haters of the Great Satan.
We’ve given or sold some of the best arms made anywhere to the Saudis.
Why don’t they wade into this mess ?
They have. Who do you think has been supplying the insurgents?
“Syrian Morass” sounds like the name of a belly-dancing strip club...
No idea who...
It seems likely that the the Sunni kenyan will intervene on the side of the Sunnis against the Alawites(a tiny sect within Shi'ism) in his campaign against Iran. If the kenyan feels he needs a real war that is supported by the American popplation to get himself re-elected then he will attack Iran in the late summer this year. That would likely improve his electability and promote his dream of a monolithic Sunni Caliphate.
Actually, to the extent that we have a “dog in the fight”, the West would do better to support Assad: whether argued from the point of view of defending Christians, an interest of the West conceived of as Christendom, or from the point of view of defending freedom of religion and religious minorities generally, an interest of the West as the supposed bastion of secular tolerance, the Assad regime, thuggish and brutal as they are, are the “good guys” in this fight (which shows just how bad things are in Syria and the Muslim world in general).
I think we are already staying out of it. The Russians are the ones getting bogged down in it.
If we had an army in Iraq, would this, even, be a problem?
Been saying it all along. We have Moslem Botherhood vs. Ba’ath. We gain more by doing nothing and letting them kill each other than we do by intervening.
Time to kick back, turn on the TV, eat popcorn.
Question: Why is it that the Russkis are loyal to their clients and allies, and we keep throwing our under the bus?
“Western states have no dog in this fight.”
Mr. Pipes forgets that the only “just” war for the dems is if we have no dog in the fight or it will cause harm to our national interest.
Rambo Kardashian is also toppling “moderate” dictators and installing the sunni Islamist MB. It would seem that the alawite assad would be ripe for picking.
Heard Susan Rice say that there was concern that the insurgents could be “extreme”. Probably just cover as they had no such concerns re: Libya & Egypt.
Because Zero doesn’t work for us.
Alawites aren't Muslims. They were classified as dhimmis under Turkish (Ottoman) rule and had to pay the special poll tax like all other non-Muslims. The Mufti of Jerusalem was induced (bribed?) to make a special declaration that Alawites were Muslims in order to reduce the sting to Sunni Arab sensibilities in Syria of being ruled by ruled by Alawites, who are, notwithstanding the fatwa, still considered heretics and apostates by both Shias and Sunnis. Ultimately, Assad stands with Iran not for religious reasons (because there are none), but because unlike the West, Iran won't pressure him to democratize, which would spell ruin for him as an Alawite leader in a country that is 60% Sunni Arab.
The Nazis were evenly matched with the Soviets. The Baath Party (aka Arab Nationalists) is basically 2.5m strong, if you count all the Alawites, compared with 1b Sunni Muslims. The way you set one enemy against another is not to stand aside while one enemy defeats the other, but to support the weak against the strong. Given that the Baath record is of protecting Christians, and the Sunni record is of slaughtering them, from the Islamic wars of conquest in the 7th century against the Eastern Roman Empire up to the Armenian genocide in the 20th, I'm inclined to support the Baath over the Sunnis.
There are not a billion Sunnis in Syria.
And the while the Moslem Botherhood has the bodies, the Syrian Government has the guns and air support. With sufficient ruthlessness, they will be able to hold on for quite a while and kill a quite lot of MBs.
In the end, it Syria will collapse in civil disorder, and cease to be a military threat to anyone (thought it may become a security threat and terrorist haven - more than it is already).
That, with no American treasure or lives thrown away, is about the best outcome for which we can hope.
Alawites are, indeed, Moslem. They are a tiny sect and one of several such Shia derived sects. If the Shia are Moslem, which many Sunni claim they are not, and if the Sunni are Moslem, which many Shia claim they are not, then the Alawites are Moslem as are the Dervishes and all the rest.