I’ve just finished listening to President Obama say that he had decided to use military force against Syria and that he would seek Congressional approval for the action. I think that seeking Congressional approval is prudent and only time will tell whether attacking Syria is also prudent.
In the comment thread to a skeptical post at OTB by James Joyner on the strategic value of attacking Syria frequent commenter Michael Reynolds predicts:
We’ll blow some things up. Assad will not use chemicals again. Then they will resume their regularly-scheduled civil war. We will lose zero Americans. There will be zero boots on the ground (excepting intel.)
And here’s my “out on a limb” prediction: Russia, seeing the potential for this to cause problems for them, will pressure Assad into negotiating. Those negotiations will begin to consider partitioning Syria into (roughly) Shia and Sunni areas.
That’s actually seven predictions and for me they are roughly in descending degree of confidence. I want to focus on the last two predictions.
The Assad regime and the Russians have repeatedly said that Assad’s remaining in power was a precondition for negotiations while the rebels have made Assad’s departure a precondition for negotiations. Under the circumstances I see the most likely scenarios as:
- They’re both kidding and will settle the Syrian civil war at the negotiating table.
- Assad is kidding. He’ll leave and the Syrian civil war will be settled at the negotiating table.
- The rebels are kidding and the Syrian civil war will be settled at the negotiating table.
- Neither side is kidding. Negotiations are impossible.
- There is no unified opposition with which to negotiate. Whatever the Assad regime may want or do negotiations in good faith are impossible.
The only scenarios that I see as remotely possible are #4 and #5.