Michael Totten

What Should We Do About Syria?

I’m spending nearly all my time and attention on Egypt right now, and I’ll publish some material from Cairo here shortly, but since the U.S. Embassy was just attacked in Damascus I figure I should direct your attention to what Claire Berlinski just wrote at Ricochet.

No one in his or her right mind thinks we should “attack Syria.” That’s not an option, though every planner in our government needs to be working around the clock to figure out what the military options are if Syria attacks one of its neighbors, which dying regimes often do. But some things are obvious: We take a stand that at least hints that we know what we’re dealing with.

Expel the Syrian ambassador. Kick out the entire Syrian embassy staff–no diplomatic relations. Withdraw our ambassador. Get American citizens out of that country: How long do you think it will be before we have a hostage crisis that limits our options even further? Mobilize a complete European boycott of the regime: I suspect the French are convinced. No more phone calls to Assad. No more visits. No recognition. International pariah status. Freeze every asset we can freeze. Use the ICC. Put public pressure on the Arab League–make it clear who’s propping him up. Stop, completely, with the fantasy rhetoric about reform–it won’t happen, and the language signals that we are living in an alternate reality. Stop saying that military intervention is not on the table: Don’t tip your hand, for God’s sake. Let Assad worry about what we might do. Go to the Security Council: If the Russians and the Chinese veto a resolution, at least the Syrian people will see who’s really backing Assad.

Here’s our real-world goal: To visibly distance ourselves from the Assad regime in every conceivable diplomatic, economic and rhetorical way we can, support the opposition in every conceivable diplomatic, economic and rhetorical way we can, and to leave the world wondering whether we just might be crazy enough to rain destruction on the presidential palace.

Right now, the IHH is leading the way in providing assistance to the Syrian opposition. Not us. Turkey is hosting the conferences for the opposition, not us. I’m sure the logic is, “We should keep a low profile, let Assad get angry at Turkey, not us. It’s not in our interest to look involved.” I’ve got an important tip for people who think this: People in this region are not stupid. We look involved already. We just look like we’re fools at best, on the wrong side at worst.

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