My new column on Syria for The Week is now online. I wrote this over the weekend after the Russian and Chinese vetoes of the U.N. resolution. Here is an excerpt:
During the debate over intervention in Libya, it was widely recognized that other abusive states, such as Syria, had patrons that Libya lacked, which was why intervention in Libya was politically feasible in the first place. Libya’s strategic insignificance was the key to building international consensus to authorize action against Moammar Gadhafi. Syria is a very different case, as the fall of the Assad regime is as unwelcome to Russia and Iran as it is desired by many in the West.
This is not only a recipe for deadlock at the U.N., but also for a clash of interests between Assad’s patrons and Assad’s enemies that could lead to a larger crisis. As we hear more calls in the U.S. and Europe to support anti-regime forces, Western governments and Syria’s Russian and Iranian patrons are on a path to make Syria’s internal conflict into a proxy war. That seems likely to escalate and prolong the suffering of Syrians and to destabilize the region.
The Russian and Chinese governments had already heard Western governments promise that they didn’t intend to seek regime change in Libya (which is also what they’re saying about Syria now), and those promises were intended just to get skeptical governments to drop their objections to some form of international response. Small wonder that these governments don’t believe Western diplomats when the latter say that they are explicitly ruling out something.