Saturday, December 29, 2012

Should We Intervene in Syria?

The "anti-war" liberals are up in arms, apparently, because the U.S. had decided not to embroil itself in Syria. The Washington Post editorializes:
AS 2012 COMES to a close, Syria is headed toward a bloody and chaotic end to what began as a peaceful uprising against an autocratic regime. This would be a catastrophe that could destabilize much of the Middle East, provide al-Qaeda with a new base of operations, and lead to the transfer or even use of chemical weapons.
... But [the crises] also reflects a massive failure of Western — and particularly American — leadership, the worst since the Rwandan genocide two decades ago.
The appalling consequences of non-intervention by leading nations in Rwanda led, after much soul-searching, to the adoption by the United Nations of the “responsibility to protect” doctrine, which provides for the international community to take action to stop crimes against humanity. Some of its leading proponents are senior officials in the Obama administration. But with the U.N. Security Council blocked from action by Russia and China, the administration has utterly failed to take or organize steps that might end the carnage in Syria. ...
... The most likely scenario is that rebel forces will, in a matter of weeks or months, win the war — or at least cause the Assad clique to retreat to its ethnic stronghold on the Mediterranean coast. If the world is lucky, this will happen relatively quickly, or an internal coup will remove Mr. Assad. If not, the bitter endgame could see tens or thousands more deaths and the use by the regime of its chemical weapons. Either way, the postwar scene in Damascus will likely be chaotic, with the Western-backed rebel coalition jockeying with al-Qaeda and remnants of the regime.
If that happens, the United States may find itself with little influence. Most rebel leaders, and average Syrians, are furious at Washington for withholding meaningful aid. They may be disinclined to listen to calls for dismantling the extremist groups that helped win the war. One way or another, Syria will haunt President Obama’s second term — and, based on the record so far, it will be recorded as one of his greatest failures.
The "responsibility to act" seems to be the new theme the past couple of years. Watching The Amazing Spiderman the other day, I noticed that the famous line of "with great power comes great responsibility" had been replaced with one stating that someone with the ability to help another had a moral duty to do so. I don't agree. We, as a nation, do not have an obligation to spend our blood and treasure helping other nations out of their own problems.

There were legitimate reasons to go into Afghanistan to destroy the Taliban backed government. The invasion of Iraq is, perhaps, more questionable. But whatever the ultimate outcome of those conflicts, it is clear that the sheer expense of those wars with the now concomitant "nation building," and the "war on terror" generally, has been greater--monetarily and at the price of our civil liberties--than the country could afford. Our people, our nation, our government, our finances, would all be better if people realized that there are some things that cannot be fixed, and there are some things in which we should not be involved--and fighting unnecessary wars, especially to replace one tyrant with another, is one of those things.

Rwanda represents a completely different situation than Syria. Rwanda involved the slaughter of mostly unarmed Christians by Muslims. The Rwandan Christians lacked adequate means of protecting themselves which could have been easily remedied and, in doing so, created some sort of status quo.

That is not the situation in Syria. First, Syria does not currently present a situation of genocide (although it certainly will if the rebels succeed). Second, aiding the rebels does not advance U.S. interests. Assisting the rebels in Syria will only guarantee the ascendancy of the Muslim Brotherhood and/or Al Queda.

In fact, if the U.S. where to intervene, it very well could spread the conflict further. The Debka File notes that Russian forces apparently have taken control of Syria's chemical weapon stockpiles. It reported on December 22:

The chemical warfare threat looming over Syria’s civil war and its neighbors has taken an epic turn with the announcement by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Saturday, Dec. 22, that “the Syrian government has “consolidated its chemical weapons in one or two locations amid a rebel onslaught and they are under control for the time being.”
He added that Russia, “which has military advisers training Syria’s military, has kept close watch over its chemical arsenal.”
DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources report: The Russian foreign minister’s statement was a message to Washington that the transfer of Syria’s weapons of mass destruction to one or two protected sites was under Russian control. This had removed the danger of them falling into the hands of the al Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra ,which had come ominously close Friday, Dec. 21, when the Islamists spearheaded a Syrian rebel assault for the capture of the al-Safira military complex and Bashar Assad’s chemical and biological stores.
Lavrov did not go into detail about how this arsenal was removed and to which locations. But his reference to “Russian military advisers training Syria’s military” clearly indicated that Russian forces were directly involved in removing the WMD out of the reach of the Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists.
His assertion that they were “under control” indicated that Russia was also involved in safeguarding them.
DEBKAfile’s Moscow sources add: Russia’s military intervention in the Syrian civil war achieved four objectives:
1.  The prevention of Western or Israel military action for seizing control of Syria’s chemical and biological weapons arsenals;
2.   The prevention of Western military intervention in the civil war behind the forces dedicated to the removal of Bashar Assad. The Russian military is now engaged in the dual mission of guarding his WMD arsenal and his regime;
3.  The Russian military presence in Syria delivers a heavy swipe to the rebels;
4.   Russia’s intervention and military presence have laid the groundwork for Moscow and Washington to work out an accord that will bring Syria’s civil war to an end.

On other words, direct strikes against Syrian chemical weapon stockpiles, or even more general intervention, could implicate Russian troops. (See also this editorial from The Voice of Russia, claiming that the reports of chemical weapon attacks was intended to draw the U.S. into the conflict. Whether the Russian account is accurate or not, the Russians clearly don't want us there).

This more recent comment from the Debka File also notes increased Russian and Iranian involvement in Syria:

The same sources point to the first appearance this week of Iran-made Fateh A-110 high-precision, short-range missiles in the use of the Syrian army against rebel fighters, under the guidance of Iranian officers and instructors .... 
The Fateh missiles are being fired quite openly by Iranian military personnel in command of Syrian missile units as Tehran’s answer for the deployment of US, German and Dutch NATO Patriots on the Turkish side of the Syrian border.  They also carry a message in response to Israel’s threat of offensive action against Syria if it becomes necessary to thwart its use of chemical weapons. According to our French and military sources, Tehran is using the Fateh missiles and the Iranian military presence in Syria to warn that there is no bar to their use against Turkey, Jordan and Israel as well, in the event of a US or Israel attack on Syria’s chemical stores.
On no account, will Iran permit the overthrow of Bashar Assad’s regime in Damascus.  At most, Tehran conceives of his departure in stages and handover to an emergency government led by the military or an armed forces faction to which certain opposition elements may be co-opted. Elections, in the Iranian view, must be deferred until hostilities end and the security situation is stable.
American and French sources agree that Tehran and Moscow have attained full coordination in their strategies for Syria and also on Iran’s nuclear program. They note that it was not by chance that the Russian Navy Wednesday, Dec. 26, launched its largest sea maneuver ever in the Mediterranean and the approaches to the Persian Gulf, just two days before Iranian warships, submarines and aircraft embarked on their week-long Velayat 91 sea exercise in the Straits of Hormuz, the Gulf of Oman, and northern parts of the Indian Ocean.
The command centers of the Russian and Iranian war games are under orders from Moscow and Tehran to jointly exhibit  naval muscle in order to bolster the Assad regime against collapse.
Parallel to the influx of Fateh missiles from Iran to Syria, Moscow is rapidly expanding the deployment of its highly-sophisticated S-400 air and missile interceptors in Russia’s southern military region near the Turkish border.

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