- Politics and Social Issues
Syria: A Massive Delimma for the World! (Updated 6/14/2014) 
Is There a Moral Dilemma?
NOT AS FAR AS I AM CONCERNED! There is no dilemma at all, the moral choice is to support the people of Syria. The Syrian government lost legitamcy as a moral government many decades ago and only exists as a vulger dictatorship no better than those that existed in countries like the Soviet Union, Lybia, and Serbia and that still exists in places like Iran and mainland China today.
Morally, the world should be militarily supporting the citizens of Syria in the effort come out from under the cruel, murderous Assad regeime; but the world is not - the Arabs are not, America is not, and Europe is not; all who have a national interest in a stable Syria and all who profess to be "caring" nations; at least the Russians and the Chinese aren't hypocritical about their support of the Syrian government.
There is a Political Dilemma, however.
Politically/diplomatically, especially for America, there is a huge dilemma, exactly for the reason that Russia and China are so openly in favor of Assad and opposed to his fall. The relationship between Russia and America is already problematic, largely because of missed opportunities during the Reagan-Bush period after the fall of the Soviet Union. (In some respects, in my opinion, the situation in Syria today is payback for turning inward and letting Boris Yeltsin and Russia drift after the Cold War was over; America should have learned the lessons from Japan and Germany after WW II, but President Reagan chose to ignore them.) Having a showdown with them over what they see as an important trading partner, which trumps humanitarian concerns any day for most nations, could lead, perhaps, to a new Cold War; not a desirable outcome for sure.
I don't think China is as tied to Syria as Russia is, but it would make sense their support of Assad is fear that his fall could lead to the fall of Iran, who is extremely important to China, economically. It does not matter to either Russia or China that Syria is one of two primary exporters of terrorism and terrorists in the Near East; Iran being the other, of course. That, obviously, matters a great deal to America, Europe, and Israel.
Politically, in the region, it would make a great deal of difference if you could have a stable, pro-Western, or at least neutral, Syria who is currently one of the primary backers of the Hezbollah in Lebanon and of the Hamas in Palestine. Without doubt, there would be a significant change in the balance of power in that region and, I would think, a greater chance for peace; although Egypt is now becoming an unknown quantity.
So, what is America to do? Morally, I think the Obama administration would love to do something, Lybia-style, in conjunction with the Arab League. But, politically, the consequences of butting heads with Russia ... and winning ... must be well understood and determined to be worth it because they could be extremely severe. To that end, President Obama, today, 2/7/2012, asked for options from the Department of Defense; a major change in America's stance.
The citizens of Syria are doing a marvalous job of shaming the world into action as well. I have watched for three days and nights running now on CNN the horror and slaughter coming out of Syria; that has to be having an effect on world opinion which should translate to pressure for positive results from the groundroots to the top of the various NATO countries.
ISRAEL, LEBANON, and JORDAN
ISRAEL, PALASTINE, LEBANON, AND JORDAN will be directly impacted by the outcome of the struggle in Syria and how deeply America and Europe become involved in it. Each, I would suspect, would feel the results in a different way, regardless of who finally comes out on top. It would make sense, the biggest shift in the status quo would occur if the people of Syria push Assad out of power.
In Lebanon, there is continuous tension between the Christians and the Assad and Iran-backed Hezbollah which periodically breaks out in war; currently the Lebanese government, I believe, is in the middle of more sectarian turmoil. For most of its recent history, Lebanon has been under the effective control of Syria because of its influence over the Hezbollah. If Assad is removed, the Hezbollah lose their close base of support and can only rely on distant, geographically separated Iran. One would think this would undercut their influence to some degree in its struggle with the Christians. If Assad should succeed, then the status quo probably doesn't change.
In Jordan, I am guessing that regardless of who wins, the social order may become more destabilized than it already is from the "Arab Spring", the more so if the Syrian people win. However, I suspect the outcome won't be the same because King Abdullah II and Prime Minister Awn Shawkat Al-Khasawneh are not despots like Bashar Assad and his government were. Consequently, if Jordan's citizens start pushing hard for more freedoms, which I am not sure they will, given the relative freedom they, the men anyway, currently enjoy, it may be more likely the Jordanian government will be more accommodating.
Palastine is interesting. The fall of Assad could be a very good thing for them and for Israel. One of the biggest impediments to peace in the Middle East is Hamas' insistence that Israel cannot exist, period, while the Palestinian authority is willing to recognize Israel's right to exist and for each to have its own State. So long as Hamas is in effective control, there will be no Middle East peace, regardless of whether Israel is willing or not (right now, they are not, in my opinion). If Assad disappears from the scene, Hamas loses one of its biggest terrorist backers as well as its Damascus headquarters. Like the Hezbollah, Hamas receives support from both Iran and Syria, with Syria gone, their source of power is seriously diminished and potentially their influence within Palestine, which, one would hope, could give peace in that region a greater chance of happening.
Israel has most to gain, security wise, I believe. With Assad gone and hopefully a Lybian-style replacement in his place, a grave threat is removed from their Northeast border, the Hezbollah is weakened to their North, and the Hamas, potentially, is weakened to their South. Even if Assad survives, he, one would think, would be severely weakened; also a good thing for Israel.
What To Do?
I DON'T THINK PRESIDENT OBAMA'S decision space is going to remain as big as it is right now; it is probably shrinking as I write. As I opined earlier, there is a balance going on, the humanitarian, national interest side vs the diplomatic concerns of stiffing Russia and China. It is my feeling that the humanitarian concerns, largely as a result of the broadcasts from Syria, is starting to outweigh the other pieces to the puzzle ... as it should, in my way of thinking.
I don't take picking a major fight with Russian and China lightly, but neither do I take my responsibilities as a human being either.
What do you think?
Thoughts in 2014
AS FAR AS I AM CONCERNED, PRESIDENT OBAMA BLEW IT on this one! As most of my readers know, I am a huge supporter of President Obama, but not to a fault, and I think he got it wrong on his handling of Syria. I do believe what happens in Syria rises to being a national security issue because of how relations with Syria affect Middle East stability, Iran's nuclear proliferation, and Israel's security. Having a West friendly or neutral government in Syria leads to one outcome, having an anti-West government leads to another, more dangerous result.
I understand why Obama wanted to let the civil war play out between those who want out from under Assad's oppression and Assad's dictatorship. But, he let it get out of control and those who would have been our allies and been decimated by either Assad or those who oppose Assad and the West as well. Action was needed and he didn't take it.
Granted, there were a lot of obstacles in the way,
1) the pro-war, anti-Obama Conservatives,
2) the anti-war, anti-Obama Conservatives,
3) the anti-war, pro-Obama Democrats,
4) an American populous who is tired of conflict that only wants to put their collective head in the sand and not face reality anymore,
5) I guess we shouldn't forget Vladimir Putin. But, that is the reason they pay Obama the big bucks ... to make hard, unpopular, legacy-killing hard choices for the good of America and, occasionally, the world. This was one of those times.
Long before Assad started using chemicals, and after it became clear the the opposition forces might not be up to the job, as well as possibly losing some control to al-Qaeda type terrorists, Obama should have started ratcheting up American (and I think the French would have helped) support. Obama had a host of options available to him short of sending regular troops to the battlefield, which nobody, including me, wants to do. In any case, I don't that would have ever been needed. But, what could have been done, in order of priority, are the following:
- Send non-lethal military and humanitarian aid much sooner than we did and in larger quantities.
- Establish Army Special Forces posts in Turkey or Iraq (assuming they would have allowed that) and brought vetted opposition forces in to be trained
- Send lethal, non-sensitive weapons to "trustworthy" opposition forces.
- Establish a No-Fly zone
- Send in Army Special Forces with anti-tank weaponry to 1) monitor who has them, 2) train opposition forces on how to use them, 3) train "good" opposition forces on how to oppose the "bad" opposition forces, 4), act as forward observers in strikes against terrorist cells like ISIS, but not Assad's ground forces and 5) to provide humanitarian support to civilians. This "no boots on the ground" policy is just plain stupid and dangerous. It puts a very tight straight-jacket on our foreign policy options. While putting regular troops into battle ought to be a very rare thing indeed, I don't have the same hesitation with our Special Forces assets or our other counter-terrorist assets such as the Delta Forces and Navy Seals.
Having seen the latest news reports out of Syria, and now Iraq, it may be too late to recover. Nevertheless, Obama must try or there is certainly going to be hell to pay down the road which will leave all of the Doves saying "tsk, tsk, Obama should have done something about that".
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