Thursday, September 5, 2013

Syria - 4 myths infecting the US intervention debate

1) US isolationism will insulate US interests
Watching the hearings in Congress and reading public commentary, you’d probably believe that non-intervention offers the surest protection for US interests. I take the opposite standpoint. Even under the sharpest definition of ‘national interests’, America’s alienation from this conflict is exceptionally risky.

To be clear, if the US fails to take action against Assad, we'll dramatically improve the likelihood of his victory. Devoid of deterrent imposed restraint and imbued by what he would regard as the proven fallacy of American power, Assad would be unleashed towards even greater violence. In a flowing sense, US inaction would also inspire Iran towards a more aggressive political posture. Alongside allies like the Lebanese Hizballah, they’d feel liberated to vigorously pursue their regional political objectives. The Iranian theocrats are astute actors – they cultivate policy with great consideration towards absent/present American resolve. Regardless, whether concerning the further destabilization of Lebanese democracy, increased hostility towards Israel and/or a catalyzed balance of power crisis between Iran and the Sunni Arab kingdoms, a self-inflicted American castration (aka isolationism) would be a grave mistake.

2) The Syrian civil war is limited to Syria
In their questioning of Secretary of State Kerry, many in Congress have expressed the fear that US intervention will spark a regional conflagration. These officials need to read the news... the region is already on fire. In Lebanon, Hezbollah is under attack, as are Sunnis who oppose that organization. At the Lebanese-Israeli border, signs of looming conflict are growing ever more obvious. In Iraq, each day brings multiple new horrors. Now that long suffering country stands on the precipice of another civil war. In Syria, Salafi Jihadists are waging an unconstrained war of sectarian hatred. In Turkey, terrorists (reportedly allied to the Syrian regime) have brought mayhem to once quiet streets.

3) Kerry’s ‘Boots on the ground’ comment suggests that Obama wants to invade
Kerry’s ‘controversial’ remark should not be controversial. The Administration has gone to extreme lengths to distance their proposed intervention away a ground invasion. This being said, the evident controversy indicates just how politicized the Congressional authorization has become (as I suggested it would). Trust is absent and along with it, rationality is suffering. Whether pro or anti the Administration’s intervention plans, if Al Qa’ida affiliates were to gain access to WMDs, all of us would most certainly want 'boots on the ground' to re-acquire those weapons. But even then, as Congress well knows, any such action would likely be led by JSOC (who include WMD interdiction in their core focus orientation) rather than conventional ground forces. In this sense, Kerry isn't being deceitful, he's only being prudent, honest and rational. Whether it's Pakistan or Syria, the prospect of WMDs in terrorist hands = a true doomsday scenario.

4) The Assad-Hizballah-Iran alliance is unshakable
Just as the US-UK have disagreements, so too do America's adversaries. For one example, consider the Lebanese Hizballah. Discredited by their support for Assad’s slaughter, Hizballah is facing a serious identity challenge. In this sense, reports of growing tensions between Hizballah and Assad are a big deal. These frictions follow in the footsteps of a similar weakening between Assad and another of his allies- Hamas. The US has an opportunity here. If the US were to enact the form of action that I proposed in point (2), we could hope to expand existing fractures within Assad's alliance. It’s true, Hizballah poses a significant threat to US interests. Nonetheless, like Iran, this is a group that understands and is restrained by our political courage. 

Note- for my thoughts on Russia's strategy vis-a-vis Syria -please see point (3) of this post.

No comments:

Post a Comment