Monday, June 17, 2013

Late to the Party on Syria

This quote from British Prime Minister Cameron best sums up the reasons for the U.S. needing to take a leading role in Syria,
"If we leave Syria to be fought over by a murderous dictator and violent extremists, we will all pay the price," Mr. Cameron said, referring again to "evidence" that Mr. Assad's forces have been using chemical weapons, notably poison gas, against the opposition."
Vali Nasr of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins added a very good point on an interview with Charlie Rose, namely that the United States must articulate, for the benefit of all the actors, why the U.S. has a strategic interest in a peaceful, prosperous and more open Syria.

A "no fly" zone may have benefits in giving some protection to the large out migration of refugees into neighboring countries and even into Western Europe.  As we saw in Bosnia, the argument for "no fly" zones is that they may hasten then end to armed conflict faster than without them; by themselves, "no fly" zones cannot be shown to have prevented atrocities on the ground, as in Bosnia and Serbia.  If indeed chemical weapons have been used, the "evidence" needs to be amplified and widely broadcast.  If not, beating our breasts over this issue is not helpful now that Russian President Putin has dismissed the claims.

Dean Nasr of Johns Hopkins also points out that there is now a bitterly divisive battle between Saudi Arabia and Quatr over which country will lead the support to the Syrian rebels.  To the extent that we can take a leadership role, we could end this unproductive division.  I just don't think that our diplomatic and intelligence apparatus are up to the task.

The active leadership role for the U.S. efforts in Syria cannot rest with the personal efforts of the President, as good as he believes it could be for his polling numbers.  Yet, with the internal NSA and foreign policy staff Berlin Wall around the President, there is no candidate who has the full faith and currency of the President to take the lead beyond a G8 meeting.  Has anyone even seen Secretary of State Kerry?

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