I’m very interested in your views about Syria

Barack Obama chose to sit out the first two years of the civil war in Syria.  When it started, he could have helped out the rebels before al Qaeda co-opted them, but he didn’t.  Now, Syria is in a full-scale civil war with the Assad regime as the proxy for Iran and Hezbollah, and the rebels as the proxy for al Qaeda.  It is a war with no good guys, but with plenty of victims in the form of ordinary civilians (especially children, the elderly, and helpless women) slaughtered wholesale or turned into refugees.

Bret Stephens, writing at the Wall Street Journal says that a very prevalent mindset (and I have to admit that it’s been my view) is that as long as they’re fighting each other, they’re not attacking Israel, America, or Europe.  He thinks this is a dangerous attitude, first, because these regional Shia versus Sunni fights can spread until the entire Arab world is aflame and, second, because these wars radicalize Muslims.

I think Stephens has a point that there is a danger that the entire region goes up in smoke, which could suck in other parts of the world.  I don’t agree with the radicalization, though, because that horse has already left the barn.  In the 1980s, during the Iran-Iraq war (which was another Sunni versus Shia fight), the Muslim world wasn’t yet so radicalized and the war did change things.  Now, though, with 9/11 and ten years of war in the Middle East, not to mention the Arab Spring, the name of the game is “radicalized Muslims through the world.”

Accepting as true that Obama has already screwed up by letting the situation get this far, is there anything that can or should be done now?  Or are we fated to sit here helpless and watch the whole world get sucked into the Middle Eastern black hole?

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  • http://liberty-resource-center.blogspot.com Doug1943

    If all the civilized countries had gotten together and gone in two years ago, and split the country up into tribally-homogeneous Safe Zones, it might have worked. I can’t see the US alone doing it, and certainly not now.
    So we need to have a policy for dealing with the likelihood of continued horrific violence.
    I suggest that the US should have a policy of offering refugee status to everyone likely to face persecution in Syria: certainly all the Christians, but we should also offer such status to any Muslim who is willing to renounce the idea that his religion has the right to kill apostates, which should weed out the radicals looking for a regroupment period.
    I think we should also announce a policy of support for the right of tribal self-determination. (I say ‘tribal’ because often the threatened minorities are not really a nation, although they may have the possibility of becoming one.)
    Thus, we ought to favor the division of Iraw into Sunni, Shia and Kurdish areas, as I believe Joe Biden once proposed. The same for Syria, and anywhere else where ethnic/religious groups are at war with each other.
    This is basically what happened in Europe during the 20th Century: where the peoples separated, the violence stopped.

  • Robert Arvanitis

    First – Obama failed because he and the rest of the left is ideologically driven to seek domestic power.
    Second – international affairs are notoriously fickle. The world turned on Smith, and got Mugabe in his place.  The world, led by Carter, undercut the Shah and got the Ayatollahs instead.
    Now we have Assad or the worse Islamists.  That’s the Hobson’s choice we face.
    And with due respect to prior comments, there are no “secure” Muslim strongholds.  The murderous Islamists are a virus which will infect ANY gathering of Muslims.  It’s kind of a religious Gresham’s Law:  the bad drives out the good.

  • http://OgBlog.net Earl

    As someone once said “It’s a pity they can’t both lose…..”
    We might be using “secret, deniable” agents in the area to undermine whoever is threatening to “win”, in order to keep things in an uproar focused on Syria proper.  Except that I’m pretty sure that the CIA got into other things than human intel/ops a long time ago.
    *IF* we permit refugees, then each one who agrees to “renounce the idea that his religion has the right to kill apostates” needs to understand that taking part in a march where “Behead those who insult the Prophet” signs are carried, and otherwise takes the radical Islamist line, will get him instant deportation.  Ditto attending a mosque where such things are preached — and no “Obama excuse” that he didn’t hear what the imam was saying!
    Yes, I realize that the last items are perhaps impossible under current law, but if that’s true, we need to change the law.  I do NOT believe that the Constitution won’t allow sanctioning calls to murder.


    The region is and has been up in smoke. It only varies between a smoldering fire and a full engulfed conflagraton. There is simply no sane way to send in firemen (soldiers) who are up against millions of pyromaniacs.  Maybe the best course is to take a page from the Yellowstone National Park fire [1988] and let it burn, while protecting as much human life as possible in Israel, America and Europe.

  • Gringo

    As someone once said “It’s a pity they can’t both lose…..”
    Or, let’s you and him fight.
    Yes. There is now blowback in Lebanon against Hezbollah’s assistance to Assad. Hezbollah areas in Lebanon are getting attacked. I have read- not confirmed-  that Hezbollah honcho Nasrallah lives in an underground bunker underneath a big hospital in Beirut. He knows he is safe there, because the Israelis wouldn’t dare hit a hospital and get all the negative press from killing all those helpless patients along with Nasrallah. I doubt that those involved in the fight in Syria have such scruples.
    I would see the first priority would be to get rid of Assad, which will be a  big loss for Iran and for Hezbollah.

  • 11B40

    Islam is the millstone. If your plan doesn’t include constraining, undermining, or eradicating Islam, you don’t have a plan. What you have is a hope.
    The taxpayers/debtors of this republic have spent the last decade, too many lives, and too much of what was once our treasure trying to enlighten Muslims to the idiocy of their ideology. For our efforts, we have been inundated by Missouri-Warhol River of Muslim gratitude; a verbal mile wide, and actual inch deep, and flowing for about 15 minutes.
    I’m not sure why putting another foot into another Muslim cesspool is so enticing, but I seem to have developed a serious resistance to that kind of impulse. What’s going on in Syria is just another chapter in Islam’s dysfunctional history. Like a fever, it may get better, it may get worse, but it never gets cured. They’ve been playing these games since about 700 A.D. and it looks to me like they kind of like it.  How long did it take for the “Arab Spring” to become the “Arab Sprung”?
    My view about Syria would be this. It’s another clear indicator that some humans belong on Mars but being that that won’t be feasible for quite a while, I would start taking measures to permanently remove Muslims from any involvement in our energy supplies. Dry them all out and see if that helps them sort themselves out.  Otherwise, it will be more of what Fouad Ajami has called the lands of “I against my brother; my brother and I against our cousin; and my cousin, my brother, and I against the stranger”.
    P.S.  I’m currently reading Steve Coll’s “Ghost Wars” about the USofA’s involvement in Afghanistan prior to 9/11.  Death don’t have no mercy in those lands.

  • Mike Devx

    Sadie says, There is simply no sane way to send in firemen (soldiers) who are up against millions of pyromaniacs.
    And I agree.  I think that everything that 11B40 wrote in #6 is complete wisdom, too.
    If we go in supporting one side, to any degree, that’s an alliance.  An entangling alliance.  If we’ve got no compelling national interest at stake, well, there’s a ‘Founding adage’ to avoid entangling alliances.
    Mubarak in Egypt wasn’t so great.  Explicitly supporting his opponents got us the Muslim Brotherhood, and that’s probably worse than Mubarak.   We certainly would never support Assad, but should we oppose him?
    War is always truly horrifying for civilians, but we are not to blame for their Syrian horror.  We are not at fault.  Do you see a way to intervene that would ease their situation?  All I see is loss of American soldiers’ lives, for very little or no gain.  I’d stay out out it.


    If we go in supporting one side, to any degree, that’s an alliance.
    Mike, you hit the nail on the head with the operative word “alliance”. I’ve heard every form of this word bandied about since forever. There cannot be and will not be any ally/alliance/allies with kuffirs. For all the great bridges that have been built over the millenium – none have bridged the chasm between the 7th and 21st century.

  • Spartacus

    Complex, nasty business.  A choice between bad options and worse options.
    In terms of the least-bad end state, there is something reassuring about the accountability of the nation state.  The cockroaches of Al Qaeda et al. are problematic because they keep scurrying away asymmetrically under the baseboards where you can’t step on them.  On the other hand, give some nasty, venal thug like Qaddafi or Mubarak or Ben Ali a nation state, and now they have something to protect; suddenly, they’re willing to turn their thuggishness inward, toward the policing of their own people, lest anyone do something silly and bring down the wrath of a greater power upon their little empire.  So long as they don’t entertain visions of a grand caliphate, we should probably look at the glass as half-full.  So, does that mean three very tepid cheers for Assad?  Maybe.
    Of course, it might also be noted that Germany really wasn’t so much of a problem for its neighbors back when it was about 400 separate little duchies, principalities, fiefdoms and such.  But after a couple generations of phenomenal post-unification growth, they felt ready to take on the world (and did).  So, does that argue in favor of carving the place up along tribal and religious lines, as Doug1943 recommends?  That would probably be the kindest solution for the greatest number of civilians.
    But I see these as merely least-bad end states to root for over a bag of popcorn.  Intervention would be very silly* and boots-on-the-ground intervention would be profoundly silly.
    * Oops — too late!  And so now Assad hates our guts, and Al Qaeda has some really cool new toys to play with.  At least, so suspects Joshuapundit, who has forgotten more about the Middle East than I ever plan to know.

  • Danny Lemieux

    There are two questions, here: 1) what should the U.S. do and 2) what will the Obama administration do?
    In a perfect world, the U.S. would still want to and be able to exert influence in the reason.
    However, in the real world, under the Obama administration, we know that our country would end up stabbing our friends in the back and tossing more matches on spreading conflagration. 
    The good news is that, thanks to our being on the cusp of energy independence and on the verge of North America becoming one of the world’s premier energy exporters, we really don’t need the Middle East. I agree with the Kissingerian sentiment of, “why can’t both sides lose?”. The more Sunni and Shia fight amongst themselves, the more time that Israel has to prepare for inevitable conflict and the more its opponents drain themselves. 
    We may be at a time when it would be wise for all non-Middle Eastern, non-Muslim countries to stop meddling with and maintain a respectful, minimalist distance from the Middle East. Whatever gains the Bush doctrine made in offering the Middle East a viable future evaporated under the Obama administration.
    I have no doubt that Islam, in an internet world, will die from its own internal contradictions. Give succor to the Christian minorities, but otherwise, leave the Middle East alone and give it time to ferment and rot from the inside out.

  • Caped Crusader

    There is only one reason to ever enter a war, namely to go forth, lay waste, conquer, subdue, and rule with an iron fist until stability and good non violent governance has been restored. The reason for doing so must be clear in the minds of all, in our national interest, and the will to do so must be resolute. Otherwise is to ask our forces to lay down their lives for no clear purpose or goal, as we have done in recent catastrophic wars, with no end or clear purpose in sight that the country as a whole can agree upon. These tribal people have fought for centuries and we should stay out unless we are threatened to such a degree that we, of necessity, must totally destroy those who threaten us. And then it should be done. Sanctuary to none except Christians, Jews, or any other small historically civilized religious group. Allowing Muslims of any stripe entry only invites more trouble internally, and as jj always says , “There is no peaceful Isla, there is only Islam!”.
    At present, we have neither the money, will, or agreement to do anything of lasting and permanent value. Just stay out. Assad represents a small faction of the Alawite sect who have dominated the country for many years to the hated of other sects. Incidentally the Assad family is very educated and the current ruler is a Western trained ophthalmologist and has in the past been a member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, so a good rule of thumb might be, “Don’t mess with your local eye surgeon, he can be a tough guy when necessary”. (TIC)
    A snippet from the AAO website:
    “Interestingly, the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, was himself trained as an ophthalmologist and was finishing postgraduate work in London when he was called to succeed his father eight years ago as head of state. Dr. Said does not think that the president’s medical background has made any particular impact on social policies, especially since Syria already had a nationally administered health system that guarantees medical care to its citizens. “But I am sure,” said Dr. Said, “that we will have all the backing we need, specifically concerning the legislation for tissue grafting.”

  • cerumendoc

    Under Islam, everyone lives at a sufferance.  The real goal is to force a reformation of Islam to renounce the Sharia, about half of the Koran and to otherwise respect that religious belief is a personal issue not to be forced upon a person, not to have the state look by as such a decision is forced.  Individual freedom for each and every human; all made in the image of God.
    That said, the fact is that what should have been done two years would not have mattered because both side hate us anyway. There is nothing to do but to let this civil war burn itself out.  Which means this current administration radically changing its tune regarding Israel, since this will be a vital staging area to have the force in place to wall off and insure that this civil war does not expand into our own backyards.  Nor allow it to become the totalitarian allies of the Russians or Chinese.  Nor allow a nuclear Muslim state to gain functional ascendancy to use those nuclear weapons to dominate the region.
    The Bush era policy of propping  up failed state so as not to become bases of terrorism has been washed away in the ‘Arab spring.’  The entire Muslim world is essentially a gigantic failed state under a totalitarian ideology (I refuse to recognize Islam as a religion) that has been a drag on the improvement of the human condition for the last 1400 years.
    This containment cannot be passive.  It will require constant military forays to target particularly dangerous elements in the Muslim world.  It will have to be a very proactive policy that says keep your own stupidity in your own back yard because if you don’t we’re coming in to mess up your back yard.  
    Ultimately, the militant elements must discredit themselves.  This can only be done by forcefully walling them in so they will have to face the reality that the destruction is what they have visited upon themselves.  And, then maybe there maybe a realization that Islam must indeed grow up and become a real religion.
    God help us if we do not have the military fortitude to forcefully wall in this conflict.  If it spreads we will likely be dragged into a war we haven’t seen since WWII with mobilization to match and we having to visit upon the Muslim world the same shock and awe we visited upon Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

  • Charles Martel

    Others here have capably pointed out that Muslims in Syria are doing what Muslims love to do: hate and murder one another. So, yes, contain the contagion and let them enjoy their slaughter. It’s what they do.

  • http://furtheradventuresofindigored.blogspot.com/ Indigo Red

    It’s apparent Israel doesn’t know what to do about Syria either. May 18, The Times of Israel headlined an article, “Israel prefers Bashar Assad to Islamist rebels — Israeli officials reportedly tell the London Times: Better the devil we know than the demons we can only imagine.” Today, in contrast, The Algemeiner reports headlines a story today June 4, “Israeli officials: We’d prefer Al-Qaeda run Syria to an Assad victory.” And somehow the US, with our ham-fisted, numbskull, President Asterisk, is supposed to know what to do.
    One of the neat things about having an art major is having to study a lot of history and much of history and art involves war. Sketchy evidence of defenses were the famous walls of Jericho and considered to be the world’s first true city some 11,000 years ago and located in today’s West Bank. The earliest evidence for an actual battle comes several thousand years later in north east Syria at the ancient city Hamoukar sometime between 4,000BC and 3500BC. Homoukar was invaded and colonized by Uruks from southern Mesopotamia, modern day Iraq.
    With the advent of writing some 300 years later, Sumerian scribes recorded what we believe to be the first account of a war. Sargon The Great during a period of nearly constant warfare unified a bunch of city states into a rudimentary empire. Sumer (largely modern Iraq) attempted to conquer Elam (much of modern Iran) sometime around 2700BC or 2600BC. The Elamites resisted, but Sumer steamrolled over Elam in a battle near today’s Basra, Iraq which Iran still claims to this day. Later, in 2525BC, as recorded on the Stele of Vultures, opposing factions within Sumer fought a civil war. The carvings in the stele suggest that the Sumerians kept a standing professional army.
    The first recorded actual battle was the Battle of Megiddo in modern Israel. Egyptian vassel states in Syria and Israel rose up against Egypt in 1457BC. Pharaoh Thutmose III fought the ruler of Khadesh and his Canaanite allies on the battlefield until the king of Kadesh withdrew to Megiddo which was then besieged for seven months. The Kadesh king escaped and the city’s inhabitants were spared although they had an army of between 10,000 and 15,000 soldiers and only 83 had been killed in battle with 340 taken prisoner.
    What I’m illustrating here is that essentially the peoples of the Middle East under various national names have been warring with and against each other since before the advent of written history and they continue to fight amongst one another over the same desert sand today. Then, they fought for their gods Marduk, Sin, and Mazda Ahura. Now, the fight is over their god Allah and which follower is the true heir to Mohammad all the while condemning the Jews and Christians with their god to the pits of hell. 
    Our Founders wanted this Republic to be a beacon of freedom to the whole world, but they never intended that beacon be a mobile flashlight to be transported around the globe bring freedom to people who neither want freedom nor believe in freedom. The intention of the beacon metaphor was more of a lighthouse, stationery and stable, not rambling across the globe trying to be make friends of  folks who don’t like us from the get go. Leave the warring Middle East alone. Contain them to their preferred piece of hell as best as possible until they fight themselves to exhaustion or extinction, whichever comes first. They’ve shown zero desire to live in harmony with their neighbors since before 4000BC and I see no possibility of attitude change in my lifetime.
    I would, however, welcome Christian, Jewish, and any non-Muslim refugees to the US, but I draw the line at Muslims. By Islam itself, Muslims have demonstrated they cannot be trusted to tell the truth about their intentions once in Western countries. The Muslims already admitted as refugees and immigrants attested to a desire to live in peace and freedom, but now demand sharia and submission to Allah. So, no more Muslim immigrants and deport those already here who cannot live according to the host’s laws and customs.

  • http://liberty-resource-center.blogspot.com Doug1943

    Okay, now for the question none of us, probably, wants to think about much.
    In the light of all that has happened and is happening in the Middle East — was invading Iraq and trying to introduce a liberal democracy there a good idea? 
    Could it have worked if we had done things somewhat differently?(See Larry Diamond’s Squandered Victory, and/or Thomas Ricks’ Fiasco for some ideas of what ‘doing things differently’ may have meant.)
    Would things be (relatively) okay now, if Obama had kept a large number of troops there?
    The problem is, none of us — and by ‘us’ I don’t mean just conservatives, but the entire American military and intelligence establishment, apparently — have any idea about the actual social realities in these countries.  Until all this business started, I had only the vagueist notion of Shias vs Sunnis, especially what it meant … I tended to think it was like Catholics vs Protestants in the town where I grew up, i.e. no big deal. Boy, was I wrong!!!  Now we need to learn about Alawites and God knows what else…
    One other thought: the poor Israelis have picked a really bad neighborhood to move into. They’re like a lovely gated community, surrounded by a giant ghetto where the Bloods and the Crips and numerous Mexican drug cartels keep the night alive with gunfire and the screams of their victims.  What a place to live!  Couldn’t we offer to evacuate the whole nation to, say, somewhere in Southern California?  It would be a win-win for both of us.


    One other thought: the poor Israelis have picked a really bad neighborhood to move into.
    The Israelis didn’t move into the neighborhood. They were and are the original land owners.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    There was no reason for Obama to provide arms to rebels that weren’t his allies. After Islamic Jihad showed up, things changed. 

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    Meanwhile Obama is laughing to the bank and the golf course as the Americans he keeps in Afghanistan dies continually.

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  • 11B40

    If I may add one more bit of tid, a couple of weeks ago, I watched a PBS Frontline program entitled “Syria; Behind the Lines.” The documentary was about a river valley in Syria wherein the Sunni rebels were on one side and the Assad supporting Alawites on the other. One of the things I noticed and which the narrator did not remark upon was that all the women on the Sunni (not sunny) side were hijab-ed up while none of the women on the Alawite side were. 

  • http://OgBlog.net Earl

    @Indigo Red: That was fascinating – maybe I should have taken more art classes!
    My beef with the Prez isn’t that he ought to know which is the right group to back out there, it’s that when you haven’t a clear idea, then there’s an old saying that comes into play – one that a number of people on this thread have been paraphrasing: “Don’t just DO something, STAND THERE!”  I fear that Ymar 17’s perspective may be more accurate than we want to contemplate – what else makes sense?
    Finally, your analysis of what our nation was about originally, and what we ought to be doing about the Mideast now, seems right on the money.  I would only add that when our oceans no longer protect us, we will HAVE to project power overseas or be gradually wiped out.  However, I think the model would be what those long-ago guys did to the Barbary Pirates, rather than what we’ve been doing in Afghanistan.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    People might want to think about dealing with the internal threat before dealing with an external threat.
    The chances of America winning against Islam, in anything peace or military based, with the Left giving our enemies all our secrets and sabotaging everything from American milk, to the economy and military training…. isn’t very high.