Syria and the Lack of a Clear Idea

I’ve been seeing a lot of kvetching about U. S. policy with respect to Syria over the last couple of days. There are good examples of the genre here and here.

IMO our handling of the entire question suffers from a lack of clear objectives. In 25 words or less please state our objectives with respect to Syria.

18 comments… add one

  • ...

    To support (indirectly) a Syrian government that will support a roughly peaceful stability in the region.

    Nine words to spare. Maybe add

    And don’t get involved in an Asian land war.

  • steve

    Stay out of it.

    Alternatively……

    Do the opposite of whatever McCain/Graham and the neocons want to do.

    Steve

  • ...

    Do the opposite of whatever McCain/Graham and the neocons want to do.

    Yeah, just like Obama wanted to do. Oh, wait….

  • Andy

    We don’t have objectives WRT to Syria, so it’s impossible to describe them. I could give my preferred objectives, which would be: Containment of the civil war, support to our allies Jordan and Turkey, and humanitarian assistance to relieve suffering.

  • michael reynolds

    What Andy said. <—- Three words.

  • ...

    And don’t get involved in an Asian land war.

    An objective at which two of the three previous President’s failed. Afghanistan is somewhat forgivable, but somehow we’ve fucked up on Iraq twice, first by not going all the way, secondly by going all the way. It’s like land wars in Asian are just a pain in the ass, or something.

  • For the life of me it really seems that the administration’s public statements, our actions, any objectives they might have, and our interests are at loggerheads.

  • michael reynolds

    I don’t think it should be Asia in particular. It’s more about maps and topography and vegetation and all that. Libya was easy because open desert, few towns, few roads – tailor-made for our kind of warfare. Afghanistan is mountains, Iraq is cities, Vietnam was jungles. That’s your trifecta of places where it’s really hard to make much use of our air superiority and ability to crush with sheer weight of metal. We want deserts, open plains, oceans.

    We could kick Australia’s ass. I’ve never liked those bent brim hats of theirs. Never understood why you’d only want half your brim.

  • Libya was easy because open desert, few towns, few roads – tailor-made for our kind of warfare.

    Libya is still going on. As is Iraq. They’re just going on invisibly to Americans because our forces aren’t involved and it isn’t on the nightly news.

  • TastyBits

    This is obviously a trick question.

    Back when anybody would engage me at OTB, @stonetools stated the Obama Administration’s goal as bringing both sides together to work out a political solution. Removing the government was not the goal, but I think Assad had to go (but not sure). The “good” rebels would get some representation in the government.

    He pointed to links, and they seemed to support this. It seemed to be the most coherent policy I had heard, and I stopped questioning while it made some sense. For me the Syria policy is like that Louis Black routine:

    “If it weren’t for my horse, I wouldn’t have spent that year in college.”

  • stonetools

    He also said that removing Morsi was just a step on the road to democracy in Egypt.

  • ...

    The bent brim makes sense for troops carrying rifles on that shoulder. Not sure about any other use for it, other than to look Australian. They’re also know as Australiancamoaign hats. I’ve got an old one of my own but I don’t keep the brim up.

  • ...

    Australian campaign hat.

  • Andy

    Ah, stonetools…. So many in America cannot understand why many peoples around the world will not subsume their ethnic/tribal/sectarian identities on the mantle of liberal democracy.

  • jan

    In 25 words or less please state our objectives with respect to Syria.

    “Earnestly say how we detest the mayhem and brutality exhibited by the Syrian government, and then do nothing.”

    Our Middle East involvement has amounted to standing on the sidelines flexing a muscle or two — perhaps quietly shipping arms to one side or the other involved in the conflict, but essentially doing nothing to help, allay, or decisively tamp down growing violence

    In Iran, we let the Green Movement’s energy, which may have provoked substantial change in the county, slip though our fingers. We are now faced with a country having nuclear capability — one who is cheerfully doing tongue-in-cheek negotiations in order to liberate itself from daunting economic sanctions.

    Earlier still, the administration dithered through the Arab Spring uprising, as it did in the early stages of Libya’s attempts to extricate itself from Gaddafi’s rule. What interventions we finally managed to do failed. A deteriorating Libya has led to chaos, and our state department’s security miscalculations, along with an executive branch’s political motivations, resulted in 4 men needlessly dying in Benghazi. Egypt was placidly allowed to be taken over by the Muslim Brotherhood, which then evolved into another revolt by the people and military, bringing only more discord to that country.

    Oh yeah, one mustn’t leave out Iraq and Afghanistan — the wars this President says he brought to an end. Conveniently, the framework to leave was mostly worked out by the former president. What needed to be negotiated were the Status of Forces Agreements. This didn’t happen in Iraq, and not leaving some kind of contingency force has been said to be the main reason the country is disintegrating into disarray — so many military achievements and loss of life/limbs seemingly for nothing Now, it appears the same is happening in Afghanistan, in that the agreement has yet to be signed.

    Assad is still firmly entrenched in Syria, with 140,000 people murdered, 2 million displaced, putting a strain on bordering countries who have set up refuge camps. Some are calling this a Rwanda-type event. The chemical weapon fiasco, still has questions surrounding it about whom disbursed the chemicals — the rebels or the government. And, the removal process of those chemicals is behind schedule. In the meantime, terrorists are springing up everywhere, training their young to be suicide bombers. And, according to Clapper, Syria is being considered as a place which will focus on bringing more terrorist events to this country.

    Empty words, incoherent actions, and lots of missteps is the foreign policy being exercised by this administration. …and, we have yet to reap the ‘real’ consequences of such an incompetent, unworthy approach to global problems via this President.

  • michael reynolds

    In Iran, we let the Green Movement’s energy, which may have provoked substantial change in the county, slip though our fingers.

    No.

    Not even close. We are very, very powerful. We are not omnipotent. There are limits on what we can do within the bounds of decency. Our power is heavily weighted toward destruction. We can, for example, exterminate the human race. That does not mean we can harness a movement in another country.

    The green movement was never in our fingers. Nothing slipped. They have their own country, their own lives, their own issues, their own culture, their own religion, and short of just exterminating people, there’s just not much we can do about Iran or Ukraine or Sudan or North Korea. The things we can do amount to either A) Wholesale slaughter, or B) Mild tweaks around the edges with diplomacy and sanctions. Not a lot in between.

    Kill ‘em or nag ‘em. That’s what we can do. We don’t have a good reason to kill ‘em, so we’re nagging ‘em.

  • TastyBits

    When it comes to Iran, I would suggest ignoring any commentary from people who have stated Israel will bomb Iran. If they are too lazy to research Israel’s military capabilities, I would not bother with anything else they had to say.

    I am not sure how the US would have stopped the Muslim Brotherhood from being elected without the existing chaos being increased substantially. Even back during the Cold War, Americans were squeamish about wet work, and I seriously doubt death squads would go over any better today.

    Everybody and everything can be bought and sold. You just need to find the right price. Ask a conservative businessman. He will confirm what I am saying. You may not like all the terms of the agreement, but that is how real life works.

    The Muslim Brotherhood are the perfect clients. They go on and on about the great satan, and they stuff their pockets with the filthy dollars. Do a few Christians get killed? It’s Egypt, it’s Egyptians, it’s their problem. Do they support terrorists? It’s the Middle East. Grow up.

    On Syria, President Obama had the perfect policy, but he let a few loud mouth Republicans shake him up. He tossed it to the UN, and he should have left it there. It would still be a mess, but it would be a UN mess. Actually, it should have been a Russian problem. If only somebody …

    If you want to hunt with the big dogs, you need to think and act like the big dogs. Otherwise, stay on the porch with the puppies.

  • steve

    Any movement in Iran that associates itself with the US government loses authority. We have no direct leverage over internal actions in Iran.

    Steve

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