Blog posts come about in a number of different ways but in many cases they’re responses or reactions to a single sentence. At any rate that’s true of this post and the sentence is from a comment to Doug Mataconis’s post on our options in Syria which quoted Kevin Drum:
I donâ€™t want to pretend that Obamaâ€™s approach to Syria was a model of foreign policy precision, but in the end he did the right thing: nothing.
That is untrue. Doing nothing would have been better than what the Obama Administration actually did. What they did was arm Al Qaeda, prolonging the Syrian civil war which resulted in more Syrians being killed than might otherwise have been the case. It also drew Russia and Iran farther in.
What are our objectives in Syria? Here are some possibilities:
- Remove Assad.
- Remove Assad’s regime.
- Impede or reduce Russia’s and Iran’s gaining of influence in the region.
- A liberal democratic government friendly to the U. S. in Syria.
- Stay out of it.
A decision tree would be a better approach to this but I don’t have the energy, time, or ambition to create one. Let’s start with #4. I suggest prayer. It would be at least as effective as what we actually did and have many advantages over what we actually did including costing less.
We could have realized objective #5 by actually doing nothing. We didn’t do that so, clearly, that wasn’t our objective or, at least, it wasn’t our sole objective.
The only way we could have accomplished #2 was by a full-fledged invasion-of-Iraq style campaign. If we had actually accomplished it, the outcome would have been a violent Islamist Sunni Arab regime replacing the Alawite regime and the subsequent genocide of Alawites. It would also have risked a direct great power confrontation and possible nuclear exchange. I genuinely hope that isn’t our objective.
Short of that campaign we might have accomplished #1 by helping the Syrian government to put down the civil war. At least we would have had a seat at the table which is more than we have now.
What we did accomplished the opposite of #3. Is there some politically possible way we could have accomplished it? I don’t see it. Somehow we never seem to learn. Don’t expect our military to accomplish something that can’t be accomplished at all.