Things are moving quickly enough on Syria that it’s time to condense stuff. First up, Ralph Peters:
Chemical weapons use? Horrible and illegal, a war crime. So is the mass slaughter of civilians. Is it really so much worse to be gassed than tortured to death by al Qaeda or burned alive in your church? Which is more important, the number of dead, or the means that killed them?
Islamist terrorists have killed tens, if not hundreds, of thousands, of innocent Muslims. Aren’t they the real enemies of civilization?
Mr. President, do you really think it’s wise to send our missiles and aircraft to provide fire support for al Qaeda? That is exactly what you’ll be doing, if you hit Assad.
This is where I fall on the issue. You see the pictures of dead women and children, and you really — really — want to start launching Tomahawks and rain down Hellfires on whoever was responsible. But an Assad loss is an al Qaeda win at this point. And while killing civilians by the hundreds is something like a desperate hobby for Assad, it’s al Qaeda’s stock-in-trade. They already have a foothold in Libya, their Muslim Brotherhood forefathers are still popular with the worst parts of Egyptian society — let’s not give them Syria, too.
Onward now to Michael Weiss:
U.S. President Barack Obama should rearticulate his policy of regime change for Syria, which he first announced in the summer of 2011 and has quietly revised and rescinded ever since. And he should gear any intervention toward furthering that policy, in accordance with what key American allies have said is their own preferred method for dislodging the 40-year dynastic dictatorship: the opposition’s gradual assertion of control. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, there are already examples that this can work in Syria.
Isn’t this what got us into Iraq? I was for the Iraq War. Not because of WMD, which I discounted in an column or three, but to change the geopolitical picture in the Middle East — to upset some applecarts in need of upsetting. I warned it would take 50 years of occupation, but we got nine (thanks to Obama) and screwed up two of those (thank to Bush). Iraq is better than it was, but not what it could have been. And any Syria operation won’t have anything like the public support enjoyed at the outset of the Iraq War, so our staying power is zilch. And that’s assuming we put boots on the ground, which I pray we won’t. If Weiss represents the conventional wisdom — and writing for Foreign Affairs he almost certainly does — then I’m afraid we’re in for the worst.
Actually, I take that back. Here’s the worst, courtesy of Ian Hurd in the NYT:
If the White House takes international law seriously — as the State Department does — it cannot try to have it both ways. It must either argue that an “illegal but legitimate” intervention is better than doing nothing, or assert that international law has changed — strategies that I call “constructive noncompliance.” In the case of Syria, I vote for the latter.
Since Russia and China won’t help, Mr. Obama and allied leaders should declare that international law has evolved and that they don’t need Security Council approval to intervene in Syria.
Authorization from Congress? How quaint. A Security Council vote? So 2003. All we really have is Britain and France — and they could do this one, legally, on their own.
I would council against them taking action, but it’s their call to make. In our country, that’s the job of Congress, but this current Administration is as lawless as the last one was often accused of being.