Richard Cohen is still unhappy that the U.S. has not been bombing Syria:
Instead, Obama vainly looked to both Kofi Annan and Vladimir Putin to help end the war when he should have also been organizing an air campaign. That’s what did the job in Bosnia, Kosovo and even Libya, where the objective was to oust Moammar Gaddafi and head off a bloodbath. It worked.
It’s important to keep emphasizing that the war in Bosnia wasn’t brought to an end simply by an “air campaign,” and in the case of Kosovo Belgrade yielded only when NATO began considering a ground invasion and Russia pressured Milosevic to give up. The conditions in and around Syria do not lend themselves to Bosnia or Kosovo-like outcomes. If military intervention were successful in toppling the regime, it would likely drag the U.S. into another post-war military presence in an Arab country.
The Libyan case is different from Bosnia and Kosovo in some respects, but considering the post-conflict destabilization that followed the intervention it is incredible that anyone in the U.S. thinks this should be replicated in Syria. The U.S. and NATO were able to get away with intervention “on the cheap” in Libya because there were European governments willing to participate and no one was interested in having a stabilization force in the country once the old regime was overthrown. The U.S. and its allies could limit their post-war commitments in Libya for the same reason that they were able to launch the intervention with so little international resistance: Libya was not strategically important enough. Post-war Syria would not be left to its own devices in the same way. If someone is calling for direct military intervention by the U.S., as Cohen is, he has to account for the post-war role that the U.S. would almost certainly have.
As I was pointing out yesterday in the post on Turkey and NATO, the U.S. would have virtually no allied support for a direct intervention in Syria. The U.S. would likely be stuck with a significant part of the post-war stabilization role. Western governments still have commitments in Bosnia and Kosovo over a decade after the original fighting stopped. It would be extremely optimistic to expect that post-war stabilization in Syria would not last just as long or that other states would be willing to take on the risks of a post-war Syria in our place. As it is, there is very little public support for any form of military intervention that Cohen mentions, and I suspect even that low level of support would collapse if it became clear that the U.S. would once again be bearing almost all of the costs and risks of another unnecessary war.