Here’s advice to the members of the U.S. Congress as they are asked to endorse an American-led attack on the government of Syria:
Note that this list conspicuously does not mention the Syrian regime’s chemical arsenal (the largest in the world) or its recent use. That’s because those pale in horror and in danger by comparison with the nuclear weapons now under construction in Iran. Also, the attack in Ghouta, Syria, on Aug. 21 was appalling, but not worse than killing a hundred times more civilians through other means, including torture. Further, that attack breached multiple international conventions, but surely no one expects “limited strikes” to restrain desperate dictators.
How best, then, to achieve the real priorities concerning Iran, Israel, and U.S. deterrence? Several options exist. Going from most violent to least, they include:
2. Bust the regime’s chops without overthrowing it — the Obama administration proposed approach. This scenario takes us no less into the unknown: Evidence exists that the Assad regime does not worry about the U.S.-led “punishment” but already plans to use chemicals again, perhaps against civilians, as does Tehran against American targets. Further, as I have pointed out, a limited strike can lead to “violence against Israel, an activation of sleeper cells in Western countries, or heightened dependence on Tehran. Surviving the strikes also permits Assad to boast that he defeated the United States.” This step risks almost as much as overthrowing Assad without the benefit of getting rid of him, making it the worst of these three options.
3. Do nothing. This scenario has several disadvantages: letting Assad get away with his chemical attack; eroding Obama’s credibility after his declaring the use of chemicals a “red line”; and strengthening the hardliners in Iran. But it has the even greater advantages of not further inflaming an already combustible war theater, maintaining the strategically beneficial stand-off between regime and rebels, and, most importantly, not distracting Washington from the really important …read more