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There Is Obviously No Case for Supporting Assad

Daniel Pipes tries to make the case for U.S. support in the Syrian conflict on the side of Assad and his regime:

Here is my logic for this reluctant suggestion: Evil forces pose less danger to us when they make war on each other. This (1) keeps them focused locally and (2) prevents either one from emerging victorious (and thereby posing a yet-greater danger). Western powers should guide enemies to stalemate by helping whichever side is losing, so as to prolong the conflict.

This is a horrible, insane idea, but it is one that will eventually occur to some people when it is taken for granted that the U.S. has something at stake in a foreign civil war. If the U.S. must not remain on the “sidelines,” there are bound to be some people who prefer that the U.S. take the regime’s side in the conflict. These people will use the same misguided argument that by doing so the U.S. will harm the patrons of the other side, as if this made intervention in the conflict justifiable or desirable. The usual problem in debates over how to respond to foreign civil wars is that interventionists are too optimistic and enthusiastic about the side they want the U.S. to aid. There is a tendency to exaggerate the “pro-Western” and liberal nature of the forces that they want to support. That isn’t the problem here. In Pipes’ case, he seems to think that he is making the case for intervention more compelling by emphasizing the worst qualities of both sides, which takes an already bad argument for intervention in Syria and makes it worse.

Pipes doesn’t claim that the regime deserves U.S. support, and he doesn’t think that it does, but instead says that encouraging greater slaughter will keep the warring parties occupied. There are many reasons why this is wrong, but one of the more important ones is that victory by either side poses no real threat to the U.S. The truth is that neither side in Syria represents much of a danger to the U.S. America gains nothing and takes unacceptable risks by providing support to either side. The U.S. is best served by steering clear of the conflict all together. We shouldn’t desire a prolongation of the conflict, which is why the repeated calls to support the opposition have been wrong from the start, but we also certainly have no business propping up an abusive regime.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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