Syria: Essential Readings this Week

Follow the war in Syria and the debate over a U.S. (international?) response with these starting points:

  • Syria-The Essentials:  Start by reviewing this extensive discussion that pulls together all the pieces of information by William Polk, a former Kennedy official on the State Department’s Policy Planning staff.  He starts with what has been reported, what we think we know, who the key players are, pro/con on the attack, and more scrupulously reported details.
  • Whither Congress? An earlier briefing–also pointed out by the Atlantic’s James Fallows, explores what the U.S. Congress should do. Is President Obama dithering, pondering, or calculating? This question won’t be answered anytime soon; we are still writing the history in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Can diplomacy work?  This is how wars ultimately end–but can some smart work upfront payoff strategically as well as save lives? A few major challenges: engaging Russia and Iran and making Geneva II work.
  • What will intervention bring?  Ryan Crocker, former US ambassador makes the case that it “could make matters worse.”  It could also make diplomacy more effective.
  • What are U.S. strategic options?  Containment, reconciliation, or neutrality according to David Brooks.  Vali Nasr advises a fatal wound to the Assad regime.  The saddest strategy in the true realist/Kissingerian tradition comes via Edward Luttwak who suggests the US wants to see a draw in Syria.
  • Legal dimensions? And last but not least, is an intervention justified or legal (more on the UN Charter and rule of law)? Moral? (Who will be the Antigone in Damascus?)




3 thoughts on “Syria: Essential Readings this Week”

  1. I do not believe the US should engage Syria in a military conflict; however, this is not because I have any doubts that the Assad regime used chemical weapons on the rebels. Rather, we have been in too many wars in too short of a period of time. We are just finally pulling out of our longest war ever and are still fighting in Afghanistan. No matter how short Obama says our involvement in Syria will be, it will not, in reality, be short and simple. We will end up being drawn in to a long-term war. Also, how can we justify attacking a regime linked to Hezbollah when many of the rebel groups have links to Al-Qaeda? Will we fight against Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan but support them in Syria? Third, it is time for the world to step up and fight their own battles instead of letting the US be their hit man. For instance, the British Prime Minister agrees that the Assad regime needs to be militarily punished for their use of chemical weapons but is unwilling to contribute military support and instead thinks the US should use military force. The US needs to send the message that we will not fight other countries’ battles for them and that other countries need to step up. Finally, the US needs to stop wholly disregarding international organizations, diplomacy, and international relations. US politicians, such as Harry Reid, need to truly sit down and talk with Russia and other security council members that do not agree with the US and talk through issues. The US is not effectively doing this, as evidenced by Harry Reid turning down an opportunity to meet with Russian officials to talk about Syria and Obama being an hour late to the G-20 dinner at the Russian palace with all of the other leaders. The US needs to seek means other than military action to punish the Assad regime.

  2. I have to disagree with the previous comment. If there is no doubt that Assad used chemical weapons (and not on rebel fighters, but on women and children), then we HAVE to do something. It is irrelevant if we just pulled out of a war or if we haven’t been to war in decades. The attitude that we can’t fight evil and support basic human rights (not to mention the Geneva Convention) because we just finished a war is a dangerous attitude. It’s the same attitude that people had after World War I, which was at the time called the Great War…until Europe’s war-weariness and negligence led it to be far surpassed by WWII. The situation in Syria has serious effects on our national security. There is not going to be a peaceful resolution to the situation, after two years of fighting that should be clear. I agree that we should receive help from our allies, but in the case that we don’t, we can’t let their unwillingness determine our course of action. It’s the 21st century, and it’s definitely possible to have a short and relatively safe involvement in Syria (drones, cruise missiles, etc.), but regardless of which route Obama takes, we have to do SOMETHING to show we don’t tolerate the use of chemical weapons, and also to destroy the chemical weapons that still exist. We can’t kid ourselves into thinking what hasn’t been working for two years (diplomacy) will all of a sudden work without something changing.

    “Europeans who remember their history understand better than most that there is no security, no safety, in the aspeasement of evil.”–Ronald Reagan

  3. I feel like there is no right answer to this issue. One one hand, we cannot overlook the ruthless slaughter of innocent civilians. On top of that, chemical weapons were used in the attack, something that is frowned upon by all but 5 countries. Syria did not sign the chemical weapons ban, but that does not make it okay to use them against the rebel forces.

    On the flip side, dismantling Assad’s regime through missile strikes could potentially allow the rebel forces to take control of Syria, basically starting a whole new crisis in and of itself. Many of the rebel forces have close ties with Al-Qaeda.

    It’s like the U.S. is a parent trying to discipline somebody else’s kids. I feel like an attack should only be permitted if given the proper approval by the people of the United States. Congressional approval would be acceptable for that in my opinion. Mr. Obama should not be allowed to throw our country into yet another war in the Middle East when the great majority of American citizens don’t approve of it.

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