While I’m still beating up on Pawlenty, let me point you to Daniel Trombly’s very thorough refutation of Pawlenty’s dumb answer to a question yesterday about what might follow the fall of Assad. As some of you may have already seen, Pawlenty answered briefly:
People didn’t ask, ‘What comes after Hitler?’ Hitler was awful and needed to go.
As Trombly dutifully explains, the Allies were asking this and were extensively planning for the postwar period. This is what is most disturbing about hawks who rely on WWII mythology and invoke the refrain that “we did it in Germany and Japan!” to justify their hare-brained schemes of militarized democratization and regime change. Not only do they not take account of the differences between those countries and the ones they propose to “liberate,” but they don’t seem to understand the extent of the planning and work that went into the postwar occupations after WWII. Even though they have no interest in planning for the aftermath of their proposed policies, they take the simple fact that “we did it” before as proof that everything will work out fine.
Trombly goes on to point out that there are obviously worse things than Assad that could conceivably flourish after Assad falls:
It should be, at this point, quite obvious that there are worse possibilities in Syrian political thought than Assad. Take, for instance, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, the actual Nazi-inspired group. Or take the possibility of a Syrian political vacuum which entangles the security interests of Pawlenty’s favorite Middle Eastern state, Israel, along with Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and essentially Egypt as well.
No less important, Syria is nothing like WWII-era Germany:
Unlike Hitler, Syria’s armies are not threatening the existence, territory, or prosperity of America or its Allies. This means that American policymakers have even more luxury to do what the Allies did when they confronted the problem of a post-Nazi Germany: debate, plan, and prepare.
There is also the small matter that the United States currently has no goal of toppling the Syrian government, our government has normal diplomatic relations with Damascus (Pawlenty naturally objects to this), and our government will not be in any position to dictate or “steer” the political developments in a post-Assad Syria. At most, Pawlenty voiced support for diplomatic and economic pressure on Syria. Even he isn’t prepared to support imposing regime change on Syria through the use of force, so by his own standards the comparison is absurd.
The better comparison that Pawlenty might have made was with post-Hussein Iraq, but that wouldn’t help his case. There was some planning for what would follow Hussein’s fall, but it was mostly ignored or overruled once the occupation began. The invasion’s strongest supporters dismissed worries about post-Hussein chaos, sectarian violence, and religious persecution just as blithely and ignorantly as Pawlenty dismissed these concerns yesterday. As a result, they failed to anticipate, much less to plan for, these developments, and were caught completely off-guard by them when they happened. Hundreds of thousands of civilians died, and millions were displaced or sent into exile. Even now, approximately one million Iraqis still live in Syria as refugees because they lack confidence in security in their home country or have nowhere to which they can return. This is one more complicating humanitarian factor in what might follow Assad’s fall. Pawlenty has not even begun to grapple with the consequences of the last disastrous experiment in regime change in the region, and it is clear that he has given no thought to any of the unintended consequences of the policy of regime change he is advocating for Syria.