Michael Totten offers a perfectly terrible proposal for greater U.S. meddling in Syria:
One way or another, we should want both Assad and al-Qaeda to lose. But they aren’t going to lose simultaneously. They’ll need to lose consecutively. One of them first has to win.
So fight and defeat Bashar al-Assad, or support someone who will do it instead. Then fight and defeat the Nusra Front, or support someone who will do it instead.
Much of Totten’s argument hinges on the assumption that the U.S. “obviously” should be seeking the defeat of both Assad and Jabhat al-Nusra, but at least part of this isn’t obvious at all. The U.S. may have an obvious interest in the defeat of Jabhat al-Nusra, but in order to defeat Assad the U.S. would almost certainly have to risk allowing that group to come to power along with its allies. For the sake of defeating a regime that the U.S. doesn’t need to fight, Totten proposes that the U.S. align itself on the same side with jihadists until such time as the U.S. can conjure up the means to defeat at least some of our former anti-Assad allies. In practice, this would mean that the U.S. arms the people today that it would be bombing in the future, or that it bombs the people now that it will be arming later on. The only way that this proposal makes sense is if one thinks that the desirable goal is to maximize U.S. involvement in Syria’s civil war and make both the war and U.S. involvement in it last as long as possible.
Nothing could be more futile and stupid than trying to take both sides in a civil war in close succession. As in Egypt, the U.S. would end up being distrusted and hated by all sides. This proposal is a vain attempt to avoid facing the obviously undesirable consequences of regime change in Syria.