To Win or Not to Win
Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice writes in the Washington Post that "the civil war in Syria may well be the last act in the story of the disintegration of the Middle East as we know it. The opportunity to hold the region together and to rebuild it on a firmer foundation of tolerance, freedom and, eventually, democratic stability is slipping from our grasp." She warns that the victor of the Syrian civil war will be Iran -- even if Assad loses.
In recent days, France, Britain and Turkey have stepped into the diplomatic vacuum to recognize a newly formed opposition that is broadly representative of all Syrians. The United States should follow their lead and then vet and arm the unified group with defensive weapons on the condition that it pursues an inclusive post-Assad framework. The United States and its allies should also consider establishing a no-fly zone to protect the innocent. America’s weight and influence are needed. Leaving this to regional powers, whose interests are not identical to ours, will only exacerbate the deepening sectarianism.
Certainly there are risks. After more than a year of brutal conflict, the most extreme elements of the opposition — including al-Qaeda — have been empowered. Civil wars tend to strengthen the worst forces. The overthrow of Assad could indeed bring these dangerous groups to power.
But the breakdown of the Middle East state system is a graver risk. Iran will win, our allies will lose, and for decades the region’s misery and violence will make today’s chaos look tame.
War is not receding in the Middle East. It is building to a crescendo. Our elections are over. Now, America must act.
In which case it won't, if she's expecting the administration to do it. The original sin present in Iraq was that it represented an American attempt to remold a Middle Eastern state in America's preferred image. From a certain point of view America acting in the world is the root of all evil.
Instead the 'kinetic military actions' in both Syria and Libya have been defined as simply efforts to protect a population from violence. Rice writes, "the great mistake of the past year has been to define the conflict with Bashar al-Assad’s regime as a humanitarian one" as if smart bombs were just another form of relief supply, devoid of policy payload.
The currently preferred approach is to settle nothing and defer everything. To kick the can down the road. The New York Times reports that the Obama administration arranged the ceasefire in Gaza by purposely deferring the resolution of every major issue. "In a whirlwind series of meetings over the ensuing days, President Obama and Mrs. Clinton played an instrumental role in sealing the accord, a review of those meetings suggests. But it is also clear that the cease-fire announced Wednesday was achieved by deferring some of the toughest issues, including the pace and conditions under which Gaza’s border crossings might be opened. "
In another article the NYT reports that by 2014 the administration will be in a position to leave Afghanistan right where they found it: in the hands of the current Afghan regime "with a small counterterrorism force with an eye toward Al Qaeda, senior officials say. " What has been achieved you might ask? But then why is achievement any more than victory a relevant factor any longer?
The questioned raised by Syria -- or Iraq, Afghanistan or Gaza -- is whether any war important enough to start is important enough to win. Maybe only bigots ask this question. "Winning" has become a dirty word to everyone except America's enemies. David Ignatius writes in the Washington Post that if America is unwilling to say who should win the war in Syria by backing them then al-Qaeda will.
Syrian activists warn that chaos will continue until the various governments that support the opposition pool their money and disseminate it through the provincial councils. “Stop asking us to unify until you unify yourselves,” a Syrian activist warned a U.S. official recently. ...
The Syrian opposition took a big step forward this month by forming a broad political coalition that includes local activists who started the revolution. But the opposition’s military command is still a mess, and until it’s fixed, jihadist extremists will keep getting more powerful.
The opposite of victory as the goal to war is the "oops theory"; the notion that all wars are like accidents. They start from misfortune must be ended by an act of will or failing that held to a dull, subclinical level for any length of time necessary. This perfectly describes Gaza, and may if the Administration had its druthers describe its future relationship with Iran. Endless war below the newspaper fold.
But Condoleeza Rice argues that such a manageable quasi-war is not what the administration will get in the Middle East. Rather what it is preparing for itself is a region-wide conflagration whose effects cannot be bounded. Perhaps it is already too late to choose between them in the Middle East. It is possible that Syria has already been "won" for the Jihad; that if it does not remain with Iran, then it and Libya and Egypt may fall into al-Qaeda like hands. Maybe by 2014 the administration can only hope to leave Afghanistan as it found it but more likely will be leaving it to the Jihad as well. Then the administration will re-learn the old lesson. The opposite of victory is not peace; it is defeat.
Here are two videos that examine the philosophy of victory. One is taken from a documentary of "Bomber" Harris's life. The other is from advocacy by Jerry Wills, a noted musician, pacifist and healer.
The most interesting aspect of Jerry Will's talk is that if you substitute the word "God" for "extraterrestrials" in his argument he sounds exactly like an Old Testament prophet. How strange it is that Western civilization, having spent nearly a century overthrowing God should replace him with the buff, albino humanoids of Ridley Scott's Prometheus or by Gaia or Xenu, almost as if having burned a Rembrandt the curator replaced it with a child's drawing. I guess that is progress. But one wonders.