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Does Anyone Really Have Any Idea What The Right Policy In Syria Is?

In Syria, it’s the government versus pro-democracy rebels versus the Islamic State versus the government versus the United States versus Russia versus Iran.

In response to the new involvement of Iranian and Russian soldiers in the Syrian civil war, U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders declared, “We do not want to make a very complex situation in Syria even worse. I support President Obama’s effort to combat the Islamic State in Syria while at the same time supporting those in Syria trying to overthrow the brutal dictatorship of Bashar Assad. I oppose, at this point, a unilateral American no-fly zone in Syria which could get us more deeply involved in that horrible civil war and lead to a never-ending U.S. entanglement in that region.”

To be honest, I don’t know how to respond to this statement. I’m not sure I understand why the creation of a no-fly zone in Syria in particular could get the United States more deeply involved in the Syrian civil war, while other forms of involvement wouldn’t.

I’m not at all certain that any presidential candidate can say with confidence what the right policy in Syria is. There are too many factors involved, changing at too rapid a pace, to justify any assertion about what the right thing to do is.

But then, maybe this perception is just a manifestation my own confusion by the chaotic situation in Syria. Have I got it wrong? Does anyone know of any coherent Syria policy, and have a strong logical line of argument to back it up?

8 thoughts on “Does Anyone Really Have Any Idea What The Right Policy In Syria Is?”

  1. Charles Manning says:

    Mike Morrell in his interview a day or two ago by Charlie Rose said Putin wants Russia to project an image of being a powerful country and a major player in the Syrian war. This shows a lack of understanding of Russia’s legitimate concern. Russia has suffered many terrorist attacks. Russia seeks to defend itself from groups like ISIL and Al Qaeda. Russia also opposes removing people like Assad who are in the forefront of opposition to ISIL and Al Qaeda. For similar reasons, Russia opposed the forced removal of the Ukranian leader. Morrell didn’t mention any of that.

    The U.S. doesn’t rationalize its policy in terms of the desire to project an image of being major power. It’s a matter of stopping terrorists before they can attack us on our shores. Russia is much closer than the U.S. to Syria. Russia’s rationale is to stop ISIL and Al Qaeda from attacking Russia. The U.S., and Britain (according to David Cameron), want to both remove Assad and stop the advances of ISIL, Al Qaeda, and groups allied with them. Removal of Assad might be a long-term goal, but the immediate danger is the spread of the caliphate. Assad could have been dealt with as a war criminal, but the U.S. doesn’t support legal action against war criminals because international legal authorities that could carry that out also want to try American leaders, like George Bush and Dick Cheney, for war crimes. We need to start supporting prosecutions for people like Assad and have that process run its course without forthwith dismantling the best organized opponent of ISIL and Al Qaeda – Assad. Let Bush and others suffer convictions in international courts, if need be. They’re not going to leave the U.S. anyway because they fear what could happen to them abroad. They could live out their lives without submitting to custody overseas.

    My personal preference would be for the U.S. and its allies to stop making war against ISIL and instead adopt a pro-life policy that would involve protecting people who come under the influence of ISIL, or for that matter Assad, from being murdered. Military action for that purpose might make sense.

    Sanders supports President Obama’s effort to “combat the Islamic State in Syria while at the same time supporting those in Syria trying to overthrow the brutal dictatorship of Bashar Assad.” I think Putin has it right: Assad should be let alone to fight our common enemy, but obviously if Assad murders innocents, he should be stopped from doing that. And he eventually should be prosecuted for past crimes. Sanders opposes “a unilateral American no-fly zone in Syria which could get us more deeply involved” in that conflict. I think by this he means the U.S. shouldn’t shoot down Russian or other aircraft involved in the fight to protect innocent people from ISIL and other terrorist groups. I agree with that. But if Russia crosses a line and murders innocents, we ought to do something – a no-fly zone might be an option.

    I haven’t had the time to check out all these points as much as I would like to. Perhaps you can help by critiquing what I’ve said.

    1. Dave says:

      American foreign policy in the Mideast has gone something like:

      The Shah had to go. Welcome Ayatollah.
      Saddam Hussein had to go. Welcome chaos and ISIS.
      Mubarak had to go. Welcome Muslim Brotherhood.
      Gaddafi had to go. Welcome chaos, al Qaeda training camps, possible dissolution of Libya.
      Now Assad has to go. Welcome “democracy”? I don’t think so. More like welcome Islamic State.

      Frankly, if humanitarian reasons were not enough to warrant U.S. involvement in Iraq II, then why would they be reason enough to be involved in Syria? And if international legal authorities hang Bush and Cheney, what would stop Obama and whats-his-name from going to the gallows for, lacking a better way to put it — “starting a war” in Syria for reasons that were no better than those given under Bush. Last time I checked, Syria was not at war with us. Even Bill Clinton would hang for his adventures in the Balkans.

      I think you are right to mention that Russia has reasons for being there that are entirely their own, and I think they are making the right call, at least from their perspective. If the U.S. however had no business being in Iraq, we have no business going to Syria, nor should we end up supplying the “rebels” there. ISIS is well supplied from American arms captured in Iraq.

      1. Charles Manning says:

        I think the prosecution of national leaders, or others, for war crimes would be a far different thing than it was after WWII. But it needs to be done. And yes, Obama and his underlings might be prosecuted. Obama should have known better than to follow in Bush’s footsteps and then argue that the nation shouldn’t “look back.”

        Your list of regrettable results of removing leaders who “had to go” is commendable. But do you think prosecutions should have been mounted instead?

        1. Dave says:

          If by prosecution you mean western leaders who go to war in the Mideast, no. The twin towers, Pentagon, train and bus bombings, murder of tourists all over the world have to be resisted. Isis is making war on the world for reasons that are entirely their own — they believe that Allah’s time has come and it has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with U.S. foreign policy. Read about the life of Qutb and one will see that the introspection of the west is entirely self centered. What have we done to make them so mad is the wrong question. As I said, Qutb and his movement hold the key to what is going on. What we are seeing now is simply the momentum from his Islam centered movement. When the WTC went down, we thought it was about us. It was not.

          If you mean to prosecute the bad boys who have governed Mideast nations with an iron fist, it would never work. They had armies. International courts don’t.

          1. Dave says:

            Wikipedia has a fair write-up on Qutb. His first name is spelled many ways, but S is the initial. I don’t think it goes much into his influence on the Imams and holy men of Islam, but his influence was huge, and his problem with the West is not our bombs and foreign policy but it has more to do with our uncovered women, jazz, rock n’ roll, materialism in general. Giving up our bombs would be hard to do, giving up our jazz and mini-skirted babes, well nigh impossible.
            Egypt’s Nassar, another iron fisted westernized bad boy had Qutb executed but that only martyred him for the cause.

  2. Bruce Nappi says:

    People interested in this question should check out and look at “How to Solve the European Migrant Crisis in 5 Simple Steps.

    1. Dave says:

      Great video, Bruce. S’what I’m talkin”bout. The reason for our push against Assad seems to be ideological, the establishment of “democracy” in Syria. It’s an idea that the Middle East is not ready for. Stability is what they need.

  3. Le Roi Ragnvaldsson says:

    Interesting piece…

    Russian Embassy shelled in Syria as insurgents hit back:

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