Neocons to the Front: Five Reasons Not to Intervene in Syria Now
Neoconservative enthusiasm for intervention, perhaps somewhat dimmed by years of death, destruction, and failure in Afghanistan and Iraq, was reinvigorated by the fall of Gaddafi.
By Steve Breyman (about the author) Oct. 1, 2012 opednews.com
US or other intervention in the Syrian civil war is far more likely to lead to the spread rather than containment of the conflict, including in Iraq and Lebanon. Look at Doran and Boot’s example of Libya. Gaddafi’s fall led directly to the Tuareg rebellion in Mali, further complicated now by the role played by Islamists, some allied with al-Qaeda, and the military coup in Bamako. But when did a neocon ever care for a place without oil or resistance to Israel?
Third, Doran and Boot argue the US should “train and equip reliable partners within Syria’s internal opposition.” This will lead, they contend, to “a bulwark against extremist groups like al-Qaeda which are present and seeking safe havens in ungoverned corners of Syria.” Sound familiar? The neocons are desperately seeking a Syrian Ahmed Chalabi. Just as in Iraq, al-Qaeda was nowhere to be found prior to the onset of the conflict. The recent arrival of suicide bombings in Damascus has neocons double down. “Train and equip”? “Reliable partners”? As in Afghanistan? “Reliable” for what? Who might these people be? Will the neocons get to vet them?
Fourth, dumping Assad “could improve relations with key allies like Turkey and Qatar.” Turkish and Qatari officials complain that the US provides the Syrian opposition nary the bullet or gun to fire it but mere nonlethal assistance. If it were up to Turkish and Qatari leaders, so say Doran and Boot, the US would establish a no-fly-zone and “safe zones” for internal Syrian refugees. “Better relations with Qatar now!’ reads the neocon rallying cry. The Turks have a half million men under arms. Their Air Force includes F-16s, drones, mid-air refuelers and AWACs craft (parts of a fleet larger than that of Germany, France or Italy). Doran and Boot should send a version of their op-ed to an Ankara or Istanbul paper calling for Turkish leadership of the mission. Chances are the Erdogan government is not interested in attacking a neighbor with which it is not at war.
Fifth, Doran and Boot remember the horrors inflicted on Syrians by Assad’s agents. They remind President Obama of his recent promise “to foresee, prevent and respond to genocide and mass atrocities.” They propose “putting allies in the lead” while avoiding the “slippery slope toward a ground war.” You believed neocons had learned nothing from Afghanistan or Iraq. But they have: their enthusiasm for drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, and air attacks on Iran and Syria is evidence. Screw boots on the ground, we’ll whack “em from afar.
The neocon case for intervention in Syria concludes with some analysis and a plan. They list “our closest friends in the region”–Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan, Qatar and Israel–plus the EuroImperial Duo of Britain and France as champing at the bit to begin the bombing. Doran and Boot place no store by UN action nor believe the Free Syrian Army capable of toppling Assad–“it is not a cohesive organization.” Instead, “America must identify those forces on the ground that are the most effective, easily supplied and amenable to help.”
Their recommendation is for the US and its local friends to violate the UN Charter and other international law by attacking a United Nations member without Security Council permission. Doran and Boot’s enthusiasm for Operation Unified Protector in Libya does not extend to a Security Council Resolution to legally enable similar action in Syria. This is for the practical reason that neither Russia nor China share their enthusiasm. Much of the Chinese and Russian reticence may be explained by their reasonable assessment that NATO & Co. exceeded its UN mandate in Libya. The Security Council’s “responsibility to protect” in Libya did not include, argue Moscow and Beijing, acting as the Libyan rebels’ air force for offensive action against Gaddafi’s military. R2P does not include regime change.
Doran and Boot’s suggestion to avoid the Free Syrian Army but find someone on the ground to supply with guns and bombs is typical neocon loopiness. Courageous Syrians have demonstrated against and fought Assad for a year and a half. If the CIA and other “special operators” have yet to identify a “cohesive organization” that meets Doran and Boot’s loose criteria for lethal aid, what makes them think it’s any more likely now? Osama bin Laden was once “amenable to help” from the United States.
Doran and Boot are, like their fellow neoconservatives, unable to resist the temptation to play strategist and field commander. Their plan would have the US and Turkey combine to create a corridor for humanitarian aid and military materiel from Aleppo (which they mistakenly identify as Syria’s second largest city; it’s the most populous) to the nearby Turkish border. Following the liberation of Aleppo, the US should cooperate with Jordan to open a second corridor between Damascus and Dara’a to “serve as the southern base of the insurgency.”
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Steve Breyman is Associate Professor of Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York.