Father Samir Khalil Samir, a Jesuit priest and Beirut-based academic, shares his view on the Syria crisis. This part is chilling:
What do we know about the bigger problem of proxy powers?
Syria is at the center of a larger strategy in the Middle East, involving Iran, Lebanon, Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan a little bit and the West. As the conflict has evolved, Iran has been supporting Assad, as has Hezbollah. This is one side.
The Arab peninsula is supporting the opposition, as is Turkey and other individuals from abroad. Israel is observing the situation, but I suppose if Iran enters the conflict, Israel will react. If the West enters the conflict, then we have a conflict between Russia on one side and the United States on the other. Europe is not unified, thank goodness.
What is your view of the chemical-weapons attack? How certain can we be that it came from the Syrian army, as the U.S. government says?
It could be from both sides. Personally, I would never decide on such an important point without proof. We have seen what happened with Iraq 10 years ago. And those who will pay the price are not the West but the Syrians. … The situation in Syria now is very bad, very evil, but how can we be sure that an intervention will result in something better? This is the question. It’s not a kind of game where we succeed or don’t succeed. It is a matter of life or death for tens of thousands of Syrian people.
David Rieff, writing from the secular left, says Obama should keep America out of this mess:
I remain entirely convinced that the correct course would be to refrain from any military action against the Assad regime. Law and morality are scarcely the same thing, but the fact that the attacks Washington seems to be planning are illegal, seeing as they have both no UN sanction and no other legal warrant (supporters of the attack are grasping at legal straws when they invoke the Responsibility to Protect doctrine; contrary to what they are claiming, it confers no such authority) is not insignificant. But the president’s hawkish critics, liberal and neo-conservative alike, are entirely right to insist that a limited military action is doomed to failure, and, from a moral standpoint, highly questionable since if it will not radically alter the situation on the ground in Syria, nor even seriously deter other regimes from using chemical and biological weapons in the future. And while the choice they would urge is the polar opposite of the one that I believe to be the right one, surely they are also correct when they challenge the president to face up to that his only serious choices in terms of both morality and effectiveness are doing nothing militarily or else committing the United States to regime change in Syria.
But plainly the Obama administration is not prepared to make either of the choices that, wherever one stands on them, are morally and operationally coherent. Instead, it will play at war, with no end state in mind, no attainable one, anyway, and will end up as being seen as a murderous bully by some and as a hypocritical weakling by others. And while war-making for show and to salve one’s own conscience is by no means the worst thing governments do when they take military action — compared to East Goutta, it pales into insignificance—it may well be the most contemptible.
Stephen Cook, who previously advocated US intervention in Syria, now contends that the time for that has long past, and that involvement now would be a disaster. Excerpt:
The formidable U.S. armed forces could certainly damage Assad’s considerably less potent military. But in an astonishing irony that only the conflict in Syria could produce, American and allied cruise missiles would be degrading the capability of the regime’s military units to the benefit of the al-Qaeda-linked militants fighting Assad — the same militants whom U.S. drones are attacking regularly in places such as Yemen. Military strikes would also complicate Washington’s longer-term desire to bring stability to a country that borders Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Israel.
Unlike Yugoslavia, which ripped itself apart in the 1990s, Syria has no obvious successor states, meaning there would be violence and instability in the heart of the Middle East for many years to come.
Greg Djerejian has been agonizing over what to do in Syria, but he’s now come to a firm conclusion: the US must stay out. Excerpt:
This past 72-96 hours have been a titanic embarrassment for anyone who cares about U.S. foreign policy. It appears a rush job to beat the St. Petersburg summitry on a quiet August weekend that everyone hopes will be quickly forgotten, except for the mighty ‘lesson’ learned. It’s worse than unprofessional and cowardly. It’s contemptible in the extreme. Make it stop. Declare the orgy of speculation and movement of naval carriers have already doubtless ensured the boy dictator will think more carefully in the future using such weaponry. Mission accomplished! Better than risking gross unintended consequences by a team that, alternatively, does not really have the stomach for the fight, or are simply not up to it strategy-wise, and in the President’s case, perhaps both.
But our Democratic president, a man who was first elected on the promise that he would extract America from the ruinous Middle Eastern wars that G.W. Bush had waged, is plunging ahead without any of the international support (aside from the French), and little of the domestic backing and moral legitimacy that Bush had. Reports the NYT:
One day after the British Parliament voted against an attack on Syria, a stunning blow to White House plans for a broad coalition to punish President Bashar al-Assad of Syria for a mass killing in the suburbs of Damascus last week, President Obama and his top aides gave every indication that they were in final preparations for an attack that could pull the United States into a grinding civil war that has already claimed more than 100,000 lives.
Meanwhile, Bill Kristol counsels:
So whatever the president and the secretary of state may now say about the mission in Syria being “limited” and “narrow,” one trusts they know the mission will only be a success if Assad goes. Regime change is not only Assad’s just reward. It’s also the best hope for a modicum of stability in and near Syria. And it’s the only message other WMD-loving dictators will understand.
So Obama doesn’t have to talk about regime change right now. He just has to do it.
Here we go again.
Finally tonight, who can deny this man the right to his gloating tweet?:
Bush's attack on Iraq was multilateral. O, who attacked Bush for being a unilateralist, will make a unilateral attack on Syria
— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) August 29, 2013
Heck of a job, Barry.