His analysis was based on a straw man, one put forward by the Russian and Chinese governments, that outside intervention would seek to “bring about regime change.”
Slaughter cannot be unaware that most advocates for some form of U.S.-backed military intervention in Syria are openly calling for regime change. The explicit goal of most interventionist proposals is the toppling of the Syrian Baathist regime. The fact that Slaughter does not envision regime change as the goal of her flawed “limited” intervention plan for Syria is an interesting exception to this pattern, but it is not really relevant to anything Kissinger was arguing.
The problem with Slaughter’s objection is that we have heard all of this before. The official line was that the intervention in Libya was merely a mission intended for the protection of civilians. Regime change was explicitly ruled out, which seemed hard to believe when Obama said it, and it opened the U.S. and its allies to charges of bad faith once the war was over. The effect of Western intervention in Libya was bound to be regime change. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine how the U.S. and allied war in Libya would have ended if it had not been for the overthrow of the Libyan government. The same is true of every proposed measure for military intervention in Syria. If the administration followed Slaughter’s recommendations, the U.S. would be committed in some fashion to support the Syrian opposition until the current regime is overthrown. Let’s be very clear about this: this has nothing to do with “stopping the killing.” This is a recipe for more bloodshed and more instability until a specific political goal is achieved. If Slaughter doesn’t recognize that, she is kidding herself.