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McCain and Graham’s Predictably Terrible Ideas for Syria

John McCain and Lindsey Graham spell out [1] their terrible ideas for Syria:

A coherent strategy is necessary to destroy ISIS and end the conflict as soon as possible. America must work with its coalition partners to establish and protect zones inside Syria where refugees can be safe; to deny the Assad regime the use of its air power, especially its horrific barrel bombs; and to impose real costs on Russia if it continues to target moderate opposition groups.

Notice that two out of three pieces of this “coherent strategy” are focused on attacking and/or threatening regime forces and the regime’s patrons, which has nothing to do with “destroying” ISIS and promises to widen the conflict by committing the U.S. to fight against the Syrian government and its backers. There is nothing coherent about this, unless the goal is to get the U.S. into as many simultaneous conflicts with as many different parties as possible. For the sake of defending proxies that have proved themselves to be useless, McCain and Graham want the U.S. to risk open war with Russia. When they talk about the “real costs” that they want to impose on Russia, we know they are talking about killing Russian personnel and shooting down their planes, because they have explicitly called [2] for this in the past [3].

As if that weren’t bad enough, the destructive duo want the U.S. to commit to an open-ended mission on the ground in Syria:

But the reality is that no ground force exists today that is both willing and able to retake Raqqa. Nor will one emerge on its own. So the U.S. should lead an effort to assemble a multinational force, including up to 10,000 American troops, to clear and hold Raqqa and destroy ISIS in Syria. Such a force could also help to keep the peace in a post-Assad Syria, as was done in Bosnia and Kosovo.

Like Rubio’s imaginary “multinational force,” this will be made up almost entirely of Americans because very few other states are willing to contribute troops to such an effort, and it will be stuck policing a much more dangerous territory for many years to come. The comparison to Bosnia and Kosovo is wildly misleading, not least since most of the people in those countries wanted a U.S./NATO presence and Syrians will not. The members of this “multinational force” would be targets for jihadist and other insurgent attacks as long as they remain in the country, their presence would encourage more jihadist recruitment, and they would be stuck in a “peacekeeping” mission that would have no clear end. If we want a plan for trapping the U.S. in another prolonged ground war in the region, we should listen to McCain and Graham. Otherwise, their plan makes no sense for the U.S. or its allies.

16 Comments (Open | Close)

16 Comments To "McCain and Graham’s Predictably Terrible Ideas for Syria"

#1 Comment By Uncle Billy On December 8, 2015 @ 3:15 pm

McCain and Graham want so very badly to overthrow Assad…and then what? Assad is a thug, but he is not nearly as bad as ISIS, and if Assad is overthrown, there will be a power vacuum, which will be filled by either ISIS or a coalition which is controlled by ISIS.

McCain and Graham have this illusion that the Syrian Rebels are chock full of closet Democrats, closet Jeffersonians, who will leap out of the shadows and install “Democracy.” This is not going to happen, yet they cling to this illusion with great tenacity.

By the way, when we topple military dictators in the middle east, such as Saddam Hussein, Mummir Gadaffi, Hosnai Mubarak, who are they replaced by? Are they replaced by Arab James Madisons? How is that “regime change” business going? How many pro-western Democracies have we helped to created?

#2 Comment By Fran Macadam On December 8, 2015 @ 3:52 pm

But won’t this make the world safe for military-industrial profits, by entrenching the cash flows for the merchants of death who own these senators, and the ex-general with a sinecure they pay lavishly, through permanent conflict? Nice to see the advocate of allying with Al Qaeda, General Betray Us, roll out the barrel bomb trope with bomb-bomb-bomb-Iran McCain and fey-not-fez Graham.

#3 Comment By EliteCommInc. On December 8, 2015 @ 7:06 pm

“The comparison to Bosnia and Kosovo is wildly misleading, not least since most of the people in those countries wanted a U.S./NATO presence and Syrians will not.”

I think it is strange that everyone who wants to intervene in Syria seems to have forgotten they are a sovereign nation entitled to the respect of the same.

The only thing that has happened sonce all of these interventions, something that was predictable, is that Iran has the clear path of influence the very same interventionists have been concerned about and more.

To this day, I cannot comprehend what they were thiking when they invaded Iraq. It would be nice to cease the introduction of that invasion into every discussion of the region, but time and time again it serves as the nexus of a myriad of problems. That combined with the needless intervention of force into Libya, Syria, attempts at doing so in Egypt and now the subtle hints of doing the same in Saudi Arabia.

I am hard pressed to call anyone a thug attempting to run a government in this part of the world.

#4 Comment By WillW On December 8, 2015 @ 8:42 pm

I will say the same thing I always say. The only explanation that makes any sense is that both of these men are suffering some form of mental illness. I fail to understand how their constituents keep electing these two clowns.

#5 Comment By blimbax On December 8, 2015 @ 9:38 pm

To WillW: If they were not suffering from some form of mental illness, would what they say make them thugs?

#6 Comment By AJ On December 8, 2015 @ 9:45 pm

Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber won’t be happy until they have laid waste to Syria as they did Iraq. Assad may not be wonderful, but he represents almost the last shred of stability in the Levant.

These neocon brainiacs should be held accountable for the destruction and desolation of Iraq, a nation that didn’t threaten us, creating the conditions for the rise of Isis out of the debris of the Iraqi state.

#7 Comment By EliteCommInc. On December 9, 2015 @ 8:15 am

“These neocon brainiacs should be held accountable for the destruction and desolation of Iraq, a nation that didn’t threaten us, creating the conditions for the rise of Isis out of the debris of the Iraqi state.”

While one may moan and groan about these advoctes of “regime change”, they are not in power. This admin. never forgetting that Sec Clinton was in up to her neck in regime change philosphyand action apparently thought the gentleman you are calling clowns and dumb have been all to happy to engage exactly that “regime change”.

One may be upset about birdies whispering bad policy in the ears of others. But I would be curious what your positions are on the democratic leaders ho folloed the course of action that is intent on burning the place tothe ground.

One can only guess that their constituents voted for them for the same reasons they voted for Sec Clinton a Sen from the state of New York, who supported all the interventionist policies then and now.

Ohh wait a minute, some number of people also voted for the current executive who on this ath of regime change, now brought up short by the machinations of Sec Clinton’s collusion and political insider debter politics that he thinks forced him to take her and ger band of interventionists dinirs along for the ride.

If democrats are consstent about anything it’s hypocrisy and blaming everyone else for everything they themselves do.

#8 Comment By Uncle Billy On December 9, 2015 @ 8:47 am

Has anyone else noticed the resemblance to Larry, Moe and Curly in the picture?

#9 Comment By Chris Chuba On December 9, 2015 @ 8:49 am

Rather than refute their arguments I will point to the actual plan on the table that IS coherent. The Lavrov / Kerry peace timeline.

Just note the difference here, less moving parts and the use of NATIVE Syrian forces …
1. A cease fire between Assad’s forces and the FSA
2. A Russian backed Syrian offensive against ISIS (not stated but implied).
3. Post civil war multi-party elections
The ONLY sticking point is our stubborn insistence on excluding Assad and presumably the Baath party from those elections. How is this reasonable?
How can elections be legitimate when you exclude the largest faction, if Assad really is such a monster and in the minority then why should the rebels be scared of monitored elections.

Things actually are progressing … [4]

The Russians are combining military action while simultaneously pursuing a reasonable diplomatic solution. McCain’s plan would simply derail this and prolong the civil war. A safe zone would just protect ISIS and their supply lines.

#10 Comment By David On December 9, 2015 @ 1:14 pm

Beyond the serious problems mentioned the article, McCain and Graham do not address the real possibility that, even if we are able to defeat ISIS in Iraq-Syria, some of their members would likely decamp to another location (such as Libya) and continue the fight from there, meanwhile having realized a recruiting bonus from the attack of the “infidels” against them in Syria. National borders, which they consider to have been established by “colonialists” anyway, mean nothing to these people. As usual, McCain/Graham can’t see beyond the ends of their noses.

#11 Comment By JohnG On December 9, 2015 @ 2:01 pm

God help us if we are going to use Bosnia and Kosovo as good examples!

Kosovo is a failed narco-state from which most of the Christian Serbian population has been cleansed and many centuries old churches destroyed, but that’s a taboo because it doesn’t fit into McCain & Co.’s neolunatic “bomb-bomb-bomb” narrative.

Bosnia is a basket case in which 3 ethnic communities pretty much ignore each other, and everything is held together by EU’s “high representative,” pardon, viceroy. A non-state awaiting a formal dissolution, now that the 3 previously mixed communities have homogenized.

If there is any guidance for Syria here, it’s the need, recognized in Bosnia but not in Kosovo, that communities that can no longer get along are best separated into distinct political entities. Rather than hallucinate about bombing anyone in Syria, let’s just negotiate a fair partition of what was never a natural country or a nation, so the world can move on. Once Syrian Sunnis, Kurds, and Alawites all have a chunk of land where they can govern themselves, we’ll have peace. End of story. And if the Sunnis elect some hideous Islamist government after that, I SO don’t care.

#12 Comment By Chris Chuba On December 9, 2015 @ 4:36 pm

JohnG partitioning should not be forced on Syria.
The Russian / Iranian plan calls for multi-party elections that include Assad (or at least the Baath) party. Why not let the people of Syria decide?

1. The newly partitioned states will be weaker than the original Syria and less able to defend themselves against aggressors like Turkey.
3. The Sunnistan will be at greater risk of flipping back into IS2.

Much has been made of Assad only holding 25% of Syria but that 25% contains 60% of the population which includes a lot of Sunnis. The rift between the Alawites and Sunnis has been exaggerated. In any case, the people of Syria deserve to vote on this.

#13 Comment By JohnG On December 9, 2015 @ 7:26 pm

@Chris Chuba, I am willing to bet a very large sum of money that the scenario will be exactly the same as in any other multi-ethnic “country” with antagonized communities: vote along ethnic lines, followed by the largest group behaving along the lines of “it is now our turn to abuse everyone else” and refusing to share power. Uprisings by disgruntled groups and de facto carving up of the country, a la Iraq, are a natural consequence.

Besides, Syrians have already voted in the most telling and credible way: WITH THEIR FEET. The communities have already separated, the only question is whether the rest of the world will help them negotiate sustainable and more-or-less fair lines of separation, or whether it will continue to pit them against each other, causing untold suffering and waves of refugees.

#14 Comment By Chris Chuba On December 10, 2015 @ 9:29 am

JohnG, since you brought up the issue of the Syrians voting with their feet I’d like to point out that 6.5M have been displaced within Syria and the vast majority of them have fled to Govt controlled areas. Regarding the 4M who have fled Syria, it is likely that at least 1 to 2M would return once the war ends since there is at least that many still in refugee camps close to the border.

Since the peace plan involves a new constitution which is most likely a parliamentary model (I haven’t read it yet) then the Kurds will have their voting bloc, as will the others.

#15 Comment By JohnG On December 10, 2015 @ 10:17 am

@Chris Chuba, give me one successful multiethnic democracy where “voting blocs,” whatever they are, work. All I am saying is that ethnic/sectarian territorial organization, whether a confederation or outright partition, is inevitable if we are to have peace. The same is the case for Iraq as well as Syria.

#16 Comment By Garry Hoffman On January 17, 2017 @ 12:38 am

The reality is there are absolutely zero “Moderates” to be found. Let loose the dogs of war, but in a coordinated and unified front, which all actors will not commit to as yet.
Leave Assad alone and make a square deal for the mutual pipelines with Russia and pressure the Saudi’s, etc.. to take responsibility. Hopefully Gen. Flynn, et al, can bring leadership and restraint?
So far McCain and Graham have FUBARed so bad it’s had not to wonder if they don’t want it that way purposely.
Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum