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Volume XIV, Issue # 123, June 13, 2012
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STAY OUT OF THE SYRIAN MORASS
By Dr. Daniel Pipes

WHY THE U.S.A. & OTHER WESTERN STATES SHOULD REFRAIN FROM INTERVENING MILITARITY INTO THE SYRIAN CONFLICT: WHY FOREIGN POLICY INTERESTS OF WESTERN STATES SHOULD TAKE PRECEDENCE OVER GENERALIZED HUMANITARIAN CONCERNS -- WHY WESTERNERS MUST VIEW SYRIA STRATEGICALLY, PUTTING A PRIORITY ON THEIR OWN SECURITY -- GEOPOLITICAL DISADVANTAGES OF A PROTRACTED CONFLICT IN SYRIA -- GEOPOLITICAL ADVANTAGES OF SUCH A CONFLICT
FULL STORY:   As the Syrian government makes increasingly desperate and vicious efforts to keep power, pleas for military intervention, more or less on the Libyan model, have become more insistent. This course is morally attractive, to be sure. But should Western states follow this counsel? I believe not.

Those calls to action fall into three main categories: a Sunni Muslim concern for co-religionists, a universal humanitarian concern to stop torture and murder, and a geopolitical worry about the impact of the ongoing conflict. The first two motives can be fairly easily dispatched. If Sunni governments notably those of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar -- choose to intervene on behalf of fellow Sunnis against Alawis, that is their prerogative, but Western states have no dog in this fight.

Generalized humanitarian concerns face problems of veracity, feasibility, and consequence. Anti-regime insurgents, who are gaining on the battlefield, appear responsible for at least some atrocities. Western electorates may not accept the blood and treasure required for humanitarian intervention. It must succeed quickly, say, within a year. The successor government may (as in the Libyan case) turn out even worse than the existing totalitarianism. Together, these factors argue compellingly against humanitarian intervention.

Foreign policy interests should take precedence because Westerners are not so strong and safe that they can look at Syria only out of concern for Syrians; rather, they must view the country strategically, putting a priority on their own security.

Robert Satloff of the Washington Institute for Near Eastern Policy has helpfully summarized in the New Republic reasons why a Syrian civil war poses dangers to U.S. interests: the Assad regime could (1) lose control of its chemical and biological arsenal; (2) renew the PKK insurgency against Ankara; (3) regionalize the conflict by pushing its Palestinian population across the Jordanian, Lebanese, and Israeli borders; and (4) fight the Sunnis of Lebanon, reigniting the Lebanese civil war. Sunni jihadi warriors, in response, could turn Syria into the global nexus of violent Islamist terrorism one bordering NATO and Israel. Finally, Satloff worries that a protracted conflict gives Islamists greater opportunities than does one that ends quickly.

To which I reply: Yes, the WMDs could go rogue, but I worry more about their ending up in the hands of an Islamist successor government. A renewed PKK insurgency against the hostile government ruling Turkey, or increased Sunni-Alevi tensions in that country, hardly rank as major Western concerns. Expelling Palestinians would barely destabilize Jordan or Israel. Lebanon is already a balkanized mess; and, as opposed to the 1976-1991 period, internal fighting underway there only marginally affects Western interests. The global jihad effort has limited resources; the location may be less than ideal, but what better than for it to fight the Pasdaran (Iran's Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) to the death in Syria?

As for time working against Western interests: even if the Syrian conflict ended immediately, I foresee almost no prospect of a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional government emerging. Whether sooner or later, after Assad and his lovely wife decamp, Islamists will likely seize power, Sunnis will take vengeance, and regional tensions will play out within Syria.

Also, overthrowing the Assad regime does not mean the sudden end of Syria's civil war. More likely, Assad's fall will lead to Alawi and other Iranian-backed elements resisting the new government. Moreover, as Gary Gambill points out, Western military involvement could embolden opposition to the new government and prolong the fighting. Finally (as earlier was the case in Iraq), protracted conflict in Syria offers some geopolitical advantages:

    It lessens the chances of Damascus from starting a war with Israel or re-occupying Lebanon.

    It increases the chances that Iranians, living under the thumb of the Mullahs who are Assad's key ally, will draw inspiration from the Syrian uprising and likewise rebel against their rulers.

    It inspires greater Sunni Arab anger at Tehran, especially as the Islamic Republic of Iran has been providing arms, finance, and technology to help repress Syrians.

    It relieves the pressure on non-Muslims: indicative of the new thinking, Jordanian Salafi leader Abou Mohamad Tahawi recently stated that "The Alawi and Shi'i coalition is currently the biggest threat to Sunnis, even more than the Israelis."

    It foments Middle Eastern rage at Moscow and Beijing for supporting the Assad regime.

Western interests suggest staying out of the Syrian morass.


Daniel Pipes 2012
Originally Published in Washington Times, June 13, 2012
Republished with the Permission of Daniel Pipes
Reprinted from DanielPipes.org, April 13, 2012
URL: http://www.danielpipes.org/11436/syria-intervention


LINKS TO RELATED TOPICS:
The Middle East & the Problem of Syria

American Foreign Policy -- The Middle East

Middle East -- Arabs, Arab States,
& Their Middle Eastern Neighbors

Islamism & Jihadism -- The Threat of Radical Islam
Page Three    Page Two    Page One

International Politics & World Disorder:
War, Peace, & Geopolitics in the Real World:
Foreign Affairs & U.S. National Security

   Page Two    Page One

Islamist Terrorist Attacks on the U.S.A.

Osama bin Laden & the Islamist Declaration of War
Against the U.S.A. & Western Civilization

Islamist International Terrorism &
U.S. Intelligence Agencies

U.S. National Security Strategy



Dr. Daniel Pipes, a Ph.D. in Islamic History (Harvard University, 1978), is Founder and President of the Middle East Forum, Publisher of Middle East Quarterly, Founder of Campus Watch, Taube Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University, a signatory of the Project for the New American Century, a former board member of the U.S. Institute of Peace, a former adjunct scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a Golden Circle supporter of the U.S. Committee for a Free Lebanon, a former member of the U.S. Department of Defense Special Task Force on Terrorism and Technology, and a former lecturer at the U.S. Naval War College, Harvard University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Pipes was the Director of the Foreign Policy Research Institute from 1986 to 1993.

Author or co-author of eighteen books, Dr. Pipes is a regular columnist for National Review Online, Front Page Magazine, the New York Sun, and the Jerusalem Post. His analyses of world trends and of forces and developments in the Middle East have appeared in numerous North American newspapers, including the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. He frequently appears on American network television, as well as at universities and think tanks, to discuss the Middle East, Islam, and the Islamist threat to the U.S.A. and the West. He also has appeared on BBC and Al Jazeera, and has lectured in approximately twenty-five countries.

Dr. Pipes is a Polish-American Jew whose parents fled Poland in 1939, immigrated to the U.S.A., and assimilated well into American society and culture. His father is Richard Pipes, an American historian specializing in Russian and Soviet history and serving as Professor of History at Harvard University from 1950 until his retirement in 1996. During the Cold War, the worldview of Richard Pipes was strongly anti-Soviet and anti-Communist.




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