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The Pros and Cons of Attacking Syria

PJ Media's columnists weigh in on intervening in Syria as the Obama administration decides how to respond to the use of chemical weapons. Updated: Michael Ledeen, Victor Davis Hanson and Roger Kimball provide their analyses.

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August 28, 2013 - 11:35 pm

ROGER L. SIMON

Okay, I’m a warmonger.

Worse than that — I’m a chickenhawk.  The closest I have ever come to war is a bar fight with a contributor to the Daily Kos.  (Kidding… almost)

Nevertheless, I don’t see what choice the U. S. has about striking Syria — and not because our president drew some sort of “red line,” but because of gas itself.  You don’t have to be Jewish to believe that, since Auschwitz, gassing your fellow human beings is pretty close to the most obscene act we can perform on each other.  It’s forbidden by the Geneva Conventions for a reason.

The people who perpetrate this obscenity — Saddam Hussein, Bashar Assad — deserve to die for their actions. And I’m not even much of a believer in capital punishment.

That’s one reason to move against the Syrian regime, although I fear our administration will not do enough and make the whole thing moot.

The second reason is to scare the bejeesus out of what Brother Ledeen calls the “terror masters” in Iran and perhaps deter them from obtaining nuclear weapons.  We will certainly have to do more in that regard, but any weakening of the Iran-Hezbollah-Syria nexus is to the good.

Some worry we will be aiding al-Qaeda. Perhaps so. But they’re next.  (Or possibly simultaneous if this report from Le Figaro is to be believed.)

In any case, in the War on Terror, we are going to have to learn to walk and chew gum at the same time.

We’re even going to have to learn to function  without a good commander-in-chief… at least for a while.

If you want more extensive elucidation of my views, I wrote a good deal more on the subject, yesterday.

— Roger L. Simon is the co-founder and CEO emeritus of PJ Media.

DAVID P. GOLDMAN

Go after the dog’s master, not the dog.

Kudos to Michael Ledeen for explaining that the road to Damascus starts in Tehran.  As Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu explained on Aug. 25, “Assad’s regime isn’t acting alone. Iran, and Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah, are there on the ground playing an active role assisting Syria. In fact, Assad’s regime has become a full Iranian client and Syria has become Iran’s testing ground. … Iran is watching and it wants to see what will be the reaction to the use of chemical weapons.”

We are at war with Iran, and I have little to add to Michael’s excellent summary. As he reiterates, we have been at war with Iran for decades. The only distinction is that Iran knows this and the Obama administration pretends it’s not happening. Because the American public is disgusted with the miserable return on our investment of 5,000 lives, 50,000 casualties, and $1 trillion in Iraq and Afghanistan, Republicans are too timid to push for decisive military action to stop Iran’s nuclear program — although air strikes rather than ground troops would be required.

I made a similar case on March 29:

It’s pointless to take potshots at Obama for failing to act on Syria. What we should say is this: “Iran is the main source of instability in the Middle East. Iran’s intervention in Syria has turned the country into a slaughterhouse. By showing weakness to Iran, the Obama administration encourages its murderous activities elsewhere in the region.”

I also recommend Ed “Give War a Chance” Luttwak’s Aug. 25 op-ed in the New York Times, “In Syria, America Loses if Either Side Wins.” Victory for Assad would be victory for Iran. “And if the rebels win, “ Luttwak wrote, “moderate Sunnis would be politically marginalized under fundamentalist rulers.” The whole region is paralyzed and ripe for destabilization. Saudi subsidies are keeping Egypt from starving, literally. “Turkey has large and restless minority populations that don’t trust their own government, which itself does not trust its own army. The result has been paralysis instead of power, leaving Mr. Erdogan an impotent spectator of the civil war on his doorstep.” I would add that Turkey also is at economic free-fall with its stock market down by 40% in dollar terms since April.

Luttwak argues that the U.S. should favor “an indefinite draw.” Here I disagree: the chemical attack shows how easily Iran can manipulate events in Syria to suit its strategic objectives. The best solution is Yugoslav-style partition: an Alawite redoubt in the Northwest including Latakia (where Russia has its naval station), and a Sunni protectorate in the rest of the country, except for an autonomous zone for Syria’s Kurds. Everyone wins except the Turks, who understandably abhor the idea of an independent Kurdish entity. Someone has to lose, though. What has Turkey done for us lately?

Obama probably will choose the worst of all possible alternatives. Daniel Pipes warns that this course of action “will also entail real dangers. Bashar al-Assad’s notorious incompetence means his response cannot be anticipated. Western strikes could, among other possibilities, inadvertently lead to increased regime attacks on civilians, violence against Israel, an activation of sleeper cells in Western countries, or heightened dependence on Tehran. Surviving the strikes also permits Assad to boast that he defeated the United States. In other words, the imminent attack entails few potential benefits but many potential drawbacks. As such, it neatly encapsulates the Obama administration’s failed foreign policy.”

If the problems of the Middle East look intractable now, consider what they will look like if Iran can promote mass murder from under a nuclear umbrella. The hour is late. If we Republicans can’t summon the courage to advance fundamental American national security issues in the midst of crisis, we will deserve the voters’ contempt.

— David P. Goldman joined PJM after nearly 10 years of anonymous essaying at Asia Times Online and two years of editing and writing at First Things.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
My sense of it is that Michael Walsh has the right of it here.

His quote by Napoleon is spot on. The demagogue currently in the White House has no intention of taking Vienna, so to speak. He's not even sure how to start.

So until we do get a Congress and a President who can actually take Vienna, we should not sacrifice a single American life or spend one dollar on Syria. Because we're in no way, shape or form really ready or willing to do what it would take to really whack Iran -- think a WWII level of effort, without significant allies or an industrial base to speak of, and with nukes, chemical weapons and millions of potential kamikazes to face.

And to all those who would use the "humantarian" argument, I say simply: Rwanda.
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
Frankly, given the situation today, if I have to choose between believing the Russians vs the AP, I'll believe the Russians. For the last five years the Russians have been less anti-American than the occupants of the White House.

We should not help Al Quida and it's source of inspiration the muslim brotherhood take over another country just so the man-child can prove he's semi-tough.
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
Editors:

Doing nothing is exactly what we should do. The first reason is that I do not think this president is a competenet leader nor do I trust the military since the purge began over the Obama years to run out the best and brightest of our officer corp. What we are left with today are liars, stooges and yes men at the highest level of command who cannot bring themselves to call the Fort Hood Massacre a "terrorist attack", who allow our secrets to be told to the media and expose our soliders to retaliation (eg seal team 6 helocopter crash which killed 6 seals and numerous other soldiers in Afganistan). No good soldier airman sailor or marine should die to support these clowns and to strike Syria because of Obama's pride and hurt feelings. There are consequences to have a "do nothing" president and a "lead from behind foreign policy". Until there is regime change in America, it is too late to fight for regime change in Syria. Not one more innocent military soldier should die for this disgraceful, anti military, arrogant, leftist with nothing but contempt himself for the military and those he would send into harms way for his pathetic ego.

Thats a fact. Also that hypocrite Joe Biden called for Bush's impeachment a few years ago if attacked Iran without congressional approval. What a joke as are most of the leftists creeps who now support force because their community organizer has now grown a pair. This freak show cannot be over soon enough.
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (129)
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my classmate's step-sister makes $84/h hourly on the internet. She has been out of a job for 6 months but last month her pay was $20791 just working on the internet for a few hours. Read more on this site...


http://www.Rush60.com
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Two cancers going after one another. Why not sit back and wait until there is only one cancer to deal with? I'm thinking, from the internal goings on in the U.S. to the external goings on of the world, Chaos is the goal. No matter what is done......or not done, he wins.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
I have heard plausible arguments both for and against bombing syria. At the moment I lean against. I only have one absolute minimim requirement, if we do it, have a vote in congress first, so we can hear complete arguments from both sides, and actually get a concensus from the legislature. Our nation should never bomb another nation, that does not directly and immediately threaten us, without a vote from congress. And since that last sentence is a direct quote from both Obama and Biden from 2007, it should hardly be a position that any dem could disagree with.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
What Obama has done to our military in the last 6 years of his administration gives reason for Russia and China to finally have a chance to wipe the USA out of existence. Syria has been armed by Russia and China therefore has the ability to do harm to US armed forces, which again, Obama has reduced. Like a Kenyan would say "stupid americans"
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Someone in another thread suggests this might be a fuel/air warhead that's fuse failed rather than a true chemical warhead based on this:
http://rogueadventurer.com/2013/08/29/alleged-cw-munitions-in-syria-fired-from-iranian-falaq-2-type-launchers/

Maybe the crowd who boohooed about giving the UN more time (after being there for years) in Iraq, should take their fingers off the trigger until the UN has at least a week to look into this?
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
Advertizing our end result (no regime change) and the hows and whens of US intentions, is the new normal of O's way to show the world that his intentions (words do have meanings) are the result of interpretations of orders or (kinder) suggestions sent and misunderstood or ignored. O has the habit of going to multiple sources until he's told what he wants to hear.
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
Syria is the symptom, Iran is the disease. We need to win a war with Iran using WWII strategy, with massive bombings to bring Iran back into the 7th century. Only then will there be peace in the Middle East
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
All I can tell you is: if this was not enough to provoke outrage just wait and they will get a larger Lusitania to sink and get us inside the Syrian bag of cats.
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Lusitania was found a few years back. Divers found lots of small arms and ammo in its hold. It was a legitimate military target.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
The big problem with false flag ops in today's information environment is that the little guy gets as big a voice as the MSM/mouth piece of the admin.

The only place on the planet without access for the masses is in places like NK and the DNC/RNC...
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
Schrodinger's cat could be usefully invoked around about now, partly because anything to do with quantum theory is kinda hard to understand (ergo, an ideal tool for pundits), but mainly because nobody knows what's happened, so nobody knows how to lay down the choices in a way that squares with, dare we say it, the world of solid objects outside the window.

Meanwhile, go with Napoleon and Machiavelli (probably Lao Tsu and Bismarck if you can be bothered to dig up a decent quote)...and:
Do nothing.

How the hell can you win when you don't know what you're doing and hav no clear goal?
Let's recall that the enemy of my enemy is also often my enemy, too, and not my friend at all. These are the folks who jumped up and down with glee on 9/11.

A real player in the advanced class would hand out chemical weapons to both sides, which could be easy enough: Isn't Saddam's best stuff reliably(?) said to be buried in silos in the Bekka valley? You can be sure of two things: the Russians have already thought about it; and Obama's schoolgirls, especially including Kerry and Biden, are still holding the map upside down.

Yet many in the armchair would maim and kill our troops on a muddy-minded whim.
They deserve a whole lot better. So do we.
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
"In the end there is no 100 percent certainty about who is responsible," Cameron said, although he insisted that officials were still as "as certain as possible" that Assad's forces were responsible."
Close speculation only counts in horseshoes, Cameron.
Without conclusive evidence and much more than just speculative mere suspicion of the origin of the alleged attack, Common sense says stand down until all evidence is analyzed properly and a absolute determination is made.
Think about it. Who benefits most if Obama strikes Syria? al Qaida and the (FM) Muslim Brohood.
Starting a war in Syria to get our Armed Services out of the USA and back there, is to obvious a ploy.
Next time Barry had best not let his mouth overload his gun while trying to take ours.
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Starting a war in Syria to get our Armed Services out of the USA and back there, is to obvious a ploy".

I had thought of that when he wasn't bringing them home. Good call.
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
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