Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Go Big Or Go Home

Well, that was weird.

Barely a day passed since Great Satan's Sec O State delivered a war speech and then 44 delivered  a bystanderspeech of sorts - almost as if going to Congress would absolve the Commander In Chief of any commanding in chiefing.

Aside from signaling the Persian Syrian Axis to complete as much counterattacks on rebelious rebel enclaves by Sept 9th - it also makes 44 seem decidedly unserious.

Because Washington is not willing to match its rhetoric about wanting to see Assad gone with actions, it instead looks for marginal—even rhetorical—ways to appear as if it is doing something. But that is the worst thing Great Satan could do. It leads to half measures piled on top of half measures, committing us deeper and deeper without coming any closer to reaching any meaningful goal. This is exactly how Great Satan ended up backing into Vietnam.

Put simply, the administration must choose one of two overall strategies: do nothing or pursue an intervention far more decisive than limited strikes.

If Great Satan is going to intervene in Syria, only a very sizable intervention makes sense. We should go big, or stay home. Because of the complex dynamics of intercommunal civil wars more generally and Syria’s specifically, it is going to take a great deal to bring it to an end—let alone an end favorable to American interests. There are options that could work in Syria without committing U.S. ground troops, but they are considerably bigger, and longer term, than the administration currently seems willing to contemplate.

The most promising of these would be to arm and train a professional, conventional Syrian opposition army with heavy weapons and a traditional chain of command along the lines during the Bosnia war (which was relatively low cost, though it was a major effort and took several years to bear fruit). Pursuing this option in Syria would have the added benefit of creating a strong, apolitical institution around which the international community could help the country build a new political process.

What has been sorely lacking so far is the will to choose. It is a hard choice, but that is why we have a president: to make exactly these kinds of hard choices.

The administration needs to pick one goal and develop an integrated strategy to try to achieve it. Then all subsequent decisions related to Syria should be determined by what is in the best interests of advancing that strategy. If the president decides to stay out, then he should stop announcing what is and isn’t acceptable in Syria and develop a strategy to contain the spillover from what is likely to be a long Syrian civil war. In particular, that will mean expending real resources—time, energy, diplomatic clout, and even money or military assets—to shore up all of Syria’s neighbors. If, however, the president decides to intervene, he needs to recognize that there are limited options that may be worth trying, but the more limited the option, the less likely it is to succeed.

As for what to do about Syria’s alleged chemical-weapons use, that answer should also flow from the strategy we choose. If we decide to stay out, then we should stay out—and launching a very limited response, one that could easily draw us into a wider involvement, would be completely contrary to that approach. If we decide to intervene, then we should see this as an opportunity both to inflict real harm on the regime and to justify greater assistance to the opposition, in a way that will have considerable international legitimacy.

The only wrong choice is to treat this moment as somehow unrelated to America’s larger goals and strategy in Syria. Too bad that is what it seems we are going to do

Pic - "Like it or not we are the Global PoPo"


stone said...

Well, that was weird.