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The Syria situation is very tragic and very messy.  I want to put down some thoughts and see if people think I am on the right track.  I think some of the arguments I see from both sides are missing the point.

Behind the scenes, the argument being made is about Iran.
I suspect that the administration thought that the Iran hawks would back action against the Syrian regime because Syria is Iran's most important ally in the region.  If the Assad regime fell, it would be a severs strategic blow to Iran, and to Hezbollah.  Maybe Obama thinks that if Assad falls, he will face less pressure to start a war with Iran later.  As far as I am concerned, if that is the real reason, they should just come right out and say so.  But politicians don't work that way.

If there is an action, it will not be a quagmire.
The model they have in mind is Libya.  In pure military terms, the Libyan action was a great success.  The bombing tipped the scales in favor of the rebels in Libya, who won the battle.  The same thing could tip the scales to the rebels in Syria.  Of course, the victory of the rebels in Libya did not usher in a democratic paradise, and it won't in Syria either.  But if you do not put in ground troops, it is a lot easier to start and to stop an action.  I do not see any possibility of American ground troops.  Why would they need to, since the rebels are fighting hard, and air power intervention against the government would take away the government's biggest military advantage, its heavy weapons and air power.  I think Obama's military doctrine is to use air power, including drones, to avoid having to commit ground troops.

It would be pointless to do anything unless we supported one side on the civil war.
If we are going to intervene in a war that is already going on, there is no point to do so unless we want to help one of the sides win the war.  A purely punitive "message" attack does not make any sense.  It will accomplish nothing.  If the US wants to deter a nation from using chemical weapons in a war, the only way to deter anyone is to take a side in the war.  Of course, it is doubtful if we should be taking sides in this war.

US military intervention in Syria would not help US strategic interests or humanitarian concerns.
The rebels in Syria appear to be dominated by extremists who don't like us.  If they win, the country will be dominated by armed gangs, as is happening in Libya.  After a long bitter war, atrocities from both sides become more likely, no matter who wins.  I see no possibility that a new Syrian government would be interested in peace with Israel.

The United States needs to turn to its own affairs, and not try to control the rest of the world.
This country has to deal with the economic inequality, growing poverty, and financialization that is dragging us down.  The rest of the world does not want us to be controlling it.  I have heard stories about how foreign countries in private ask for an active US policy, but they won't support such a policy publicly.  If the world wants the US to help with some dangerous or violent situation somewhere that does not directly impinge on our country's citizens, then they better come out with broad public and material support for any action the US takes before we consider such an action.  Empire is a burden, and in my opinion is not worth it.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LaEscapee, defluxion10, acerimusdux

    "The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt." Bertrand Russell

    by Thutmose V on Sat Sep 07, 2013 at 07:25:16 PM PDT

  •  I have one quibble (0+ / 0-)
    But if you do not put in ground troops, it is a lot easier to start and to stop an action.  I do not see any possibility of American ground troops.  Why would they need to, since the rebels are fighting hard, and air power intervention against the government would take away the government's biggest military advantage, its heavy weapons and air power.  I think Obama's military doctrine is to use air power, including drones, to avoid having to commit ground troops.
    While I agree that our focus should be on other things when I read things like what Jon Soltz wrote I wonder where we are headed.
    I thought back to that, today, as I read about one very interesting line in the Senate resolution authorizing military action in Syria, which passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Most in the media, and on the Hill, talk about how the resolution disallows American troops on the ground. That isn't true. What the bill says is, "The authority granted in section 2 does not authorize the use of the United States Armed Forces on the ground in Syria for the purpose of combat operations."

    That is key. Officially, those 66 Americans killed, and 295 wounded in Iraq were not part of combat operations, either. Yet, for those of us on the ground, we knew they very much were.

    Whenever we send troops to the kind of asymmetrical battlefield that we had in Iraq, and would definitely see in Syria, they are automatically combat troops. They can face attack at any time, and would have to respond appropriately, at any time. To say they will be in any kind of safe-zone, away from combat, is naïve.

  •  Syria and Iran have a mutual defense pact (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Throw The Bums Out, yargityblarg

    ....that is sorta like NATO in which an attack on one is considered an attack on all.  I don't think that baiting Iran is a very good idea.  What would be a better idea for dealing with Iran would be to normalize relations so that there is direct diplomacy again.

    Here are some risk scenarios for you.  It's hard to guage their probability. (1) The US blows $1 billion in ordnance attacking Syrian military installations; chemical attacks continue.  What does the US do then?
    (2) During the attack on Syria, Syria launches a barrage of anti-ship missiles aimed at US warships in the Mediterranean; one or more ships are sunk.  What does the US do then?
    (3) After the attack begins, Russia and China take the issue to the UN Security Council; a vote holding the US in violation of the UN Charter occurs, with US, UK, and French vetos.  Russian, China, and Iran use the US logic of bypassing the UN to begin actions against US assets involved in conducting the attacks on Syria.  What does the  US do then?
    (4) There are reports of US personnel in Syria in special ops roles assisting the rebels.  If any of these folks are killed, even killed brutally by factions of rebels, does the US put boots on the ground?  Does the US let these "brave troops die in vain"?  How does the President avoid mission creep if there are casualties?

    Excellent conversation starters, btw.

    50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

    by TarheelDem on Sat Sep 07, 2013 at 07:56:31 PM PDT

  •  At least in part, about Iran. (0+ / 0-)

    Though I think less about depriving them of an ally, and more about maintaining a credible negotiating posture re: their atomic program. Obama thought about letting the chemical attack slide, and then sitting down with the Iranians to tell them that they can't have the Bomb, this red line we really mean it. And he concluded that declining to act against Assad would be taken as a green light by Iran to go nuclear.

    My cat doesn't understand macroeconomics or death metal; but he's loyal and I love him.

    by lilnev on Sat Sep 07, 2013 at 08:46:20 PM PDT

  •  As I see it (0+ / 0-)

    1.  Agree, Iran is a big part of what this is about

    2.  May not be a quagmire, but I don't think they want a quick victory either.  I think a limited intervention to weaken Assad which will actually prolong the war is what they have in mind.  

    3.  They'll take the "side" of the more moderate rebels, and meanwhile they will try to train more troops who would be more sypathetic to our interests, but that's going to take a long time and not really accomplish too much.  

    4.  It will do next to nothing for humanitarian concerns, and won't bring peace to Israel, but may reduce to a small degree some of the more immediate threats to Israel.  Israel always likes it when it's enemies are occupied with fighting one another.

    5.  It may be best to do nothing more here than to push for a strongly worded statement from the UN, and then if something eventually has to be done about Iran's nuclear program, go ahead and let Israel take care of it.  But I don't think a brief and limited bombing campaign is going to be any kind of major disaster either, even if I do think it might be stupid and futile.  

  •  Maybe some more important arguments (0+ / 0-)

    - Aggressive warfare (i.e., attacking a state that has not attacked one) is a war crime, indeed the "supreme crime" prosecuted at Nuremburg. As you say, the rest of the world just becomes more disillusioned with how the US uses its power.

    - Crimes against humanity are supposed to be pressed in the international court.

    - The US has no vital national interest in Syria. "Winning" there would not have any beneficial effect to the US. We would come out of the war weaker both financially and in terms of stress on the troops.

    - The US has no support for action in Syria outside of the Gulf States and Turkey. In the US, the ratio against war vs. in favor is about 5:1.  Therefore, if anything goes wrong, like say, an uprising in Bahrain, there's no back-up.  

    - The experience of the American Revolution shows that when people fight for their liberty, they are apt to be committed to the peace.  

    I think people both for and against intervention have underthought it.

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