Josh Rogin reports on the former U.S. diplomats that are wary of any military involvement in Syria:
On the other hand, those who’ve seen the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from a front-row diplomatic seat say caution is the better part of policy prudence when it comes to Syria.
“There are no good options here and the pressure is growing to do something because that is what we do, we do things [bold mine-DL],” says former Amb. Ryan Crocker, who served as ambassadors to both Iraq and Syria and now is a senior fellow at Yale University. “But everything of significance I can think of doing is likely to make the situation worse, not better and put us in a worse position, not a better one.” [bold mine-DL] In Crocker’s view, the stalemate with the Russians at the United Nations regarding more concerted action has actually benefited America.
“The Russians are actually doing us a favor and I don’t think they are actually going to come off it because they see a rebel victory as deeply destabilizing for the region and particularly for them,” Crocker says. “I hope they go on blocking any Security Council action because if you get an ‘all necessary measures’ resolution, then you are in a very exposed position if you don’t use all necessary means.” [bold mine-DL]
Ambassador Crocker is being very sensible here. Americans should be glad that Russia is keeping the Security Council from authorizing military action in Syria, since the U.S. will be the one to take that action, and we should be glad that the administration is apparently unwilling to ignore the requirement for international authorization. Of course, the U.S. could start bombing Syria without that authorization, just as it did in Yugoslavia in 1999. The lack of a Security Council resolution is more of an excuse not to start a war instead of being a real obstacle to one, but when Syria hawks are looking for any pretext to get the U.S. into the conflict it may be good enough. One of the stranger talking points from Syria hawks is that Russia wants to see America “lose” in Syria. If Moscow were so obsessed with inflicting damage on the U.S., there are few things that would be more effective in doing that than clearing the way for the U.S. and its allies to fight a fourth war in twelve years.
Crocker makes another point that is worth considering:
He cites the willingness of the Assad regime to wage war by any means necessary as among the key differences, meaning more weapons for the opposition will not necessarily lead to less fighting.
“They have been training, equipping, and organizing for this for a very long time,” he says of Assad’s forces. “They have got the weaponry, they are ruthless and they know what the alternatives are. Whatever you say about them, they will stand and fight and you did not have that situation with a government in either Bosnia or Iraq [bold mine-DL].”
More weapons for the opposition was never likely to lead to “less fighting.” The goal of this measure wasn’t to limit or reduce armed violence, but to inflict more of it on regime forces. It’s the last observation that is more interesting. As Crocker sees it, a Syrian war would be more difficult than previous military interventions because the U.S. would meet with much greater resistance.