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Should the U.S. Intervene in Syria? The Debate Continues

Last week, I presented my own reasons for why I think it is futile to go into Syria. I respect the arguments and analysis of those who favor intervention. I understand their motivations and their frustrations, all the result of our president’s failed policies. I comprehend Elliott Abrams’ analysis, and his argument that “the central fact about the region today is Iran’s use of raw power in Syria, with Russian support.” To counter Iran and Russia, Abrams believes that necessitates arming the rebels and more, and the announcement of a coherent and strong U.S. policy on Iran and Hezbollah. Abrams cites the work of Frederic C. Hof, who believes that we are militarily capable of stepping in without “boots on the ground,” and that we can “destroy and degrade” Assad’s capability without our own forces getting involved. Hof writes: “Syrians are being slaughtered and U.S. friends and allies are suffering the consequences. A family regime supported by terrorists threatens to plunge the region into war as it systematically wrecks the Syrian state.” But he thinks the U.S. can act even without a no-fly zone, which others see as a necessary first step.

For laymen like most readers and me, we can only consider the judgment of the experts, and then try to sort out their arguments and to reach our own conclusions. For now, I still believe intervention is shortsighted and likely to bring even worse results. I agree with my PJM colleague Victor Davis Hanson, who argues the following at National Review Online:

There is no guarantee that American air support or close training might not end up in some sort of American ground presence -- the only sure guarantee that so-called moderates might prevail should Assad fall. Of course, any costly intervention would eventually be orphaned by many in the present chorus of interventionists in a manner that we also know well from Iraq. We are told that dealing a blow to Iran and Hezbollah would be a good thing, and no doubt it would be. But in the callous calculus of realpolitik, both seem already to be suffering without U.S. intervention.

And I take serious notice of the admonition of Michael Rubin, who recently returned from a trip through Iraq, where he often goes. Rubin writes that “many Iraqi Shi’ites warned against any support for the Syrian opposition, claiming they were more radical than the Americans realized,” and that they were joined in this analysis by Iraqi Kurds, Christians, and Sunnis. Rubin thus advocates only the use of U.S. air power, which he thinks is sufficient to stop Assad. He argues: “Arming the Syrian rebels is wrong and would gravely undercut U.S. national security.”

With such different perspectives and arguments from those who know the military situation, and what arming the rebels would or would not do, I think it only prudent that the U.S. stay out. As we have seen from other recent examples, the law of unintended consequences has shown that outcomes we expected are more than likely to occur. We must hope for the best, and be prepared for the worst, which it looks like will soon take place.