Our Hamlet in the White House in a jam. Only a year ago he banged his fist on the Bully Pulpit telling the bad boy of the Levant, Bashar Assad, that he’d better behave and not cross that red line if he knew what was good for him. Great theater gentle reader, with one tiny niggle, Obama was going to be called out on that little bit chest beating. Having called the tune, the president is now being asked to pay the bill. Barry has looked over the eye-watering cost of his blather and does not like the shape and size of the numbers.
But he asked for this. He ran for the job and is being reminded what the full job entails. The pressure to just Do Something, anything to make those bad images on the TV and web just go away is reaching critical mass. A funny thing about things reaching critical mass, they almost run away from you in really bad ways, in melt downs of policy or worse, explosions of war.
The awful thing about Syria is that all our options there are plain awful. We could do what we are doing, which is nothing. The hope here is that Assad is able to crush all comers and reassert “stability” in Syria. That would be a rather nasty blood bath as the Baathist regime clears account with all the people who “betrayed” the “rightful rule” of the Assads.
But poor Barack Obama, the other option is allowing the resistance to sweep all before it. And that gentle reader is another horror. It would result in the establishment of a fragmented failed state in the region. If you liked the Taliban crashing about in the bad lands of the Hindu Kush you’re just going to love the radical Salafi state that Syria will be in the Levant.
The last option, the one that no one in DC wants, would be a full on occupation in Syria by NATO. That would be a commitment with no end point and counter productive results. In other words it would be Iraq on steroids. Still, that is just the results we might get. The minute our efforts get “kinetic” that is once the bombs and bullets start flying we are staring at a second Libya at best and a worse than Iraq endgame as the the bookends of our efforts.
Yet the bobble heads of the Conventional Wisdom insist we, that is the US must Do Something. They will trot out cruise missile attacks or other “limited” options, forgetful of how much death and destruction just one Tomahawk can dish out. Or if they are really clueless, the bobble heads will yammer about a No Fly Zone. Well, that’s a great idea for your armchair general, but the reality is a hell of lot messier. No Fly means a total degradation of Syrian Air Power. It means blowing up a lot of stuff, missile defense systems, radar facilities, air fields, command and control facilities, and, by the way, innocent civilians. No Fly Zone are neither easy nor neat and clean. A lot of uninvolved, innocent civilians are going to get hurt, maimed and killed so we can all feel better about ourselves.
Gentle reader we did have a window of opportunity here, and we let blow past us. Instead of the foolishness of our efforts in Libya we should have instead focused on the main arena. The minute Assad started using his Air Force and Artillery against his own people we should have rounded up our NATO allies and intervened. We knew the capabilities of the Assad regime. We knew the history. We understood the larger history of despots, that they never, ever go gently into that good night. If you really believe in force as a solution, you go with the full Powell Doctrine. You go in fast, you go in hard, and you go in meaning business. No half measures need apply. You crush Assad like the cockroach that he is.
But that means if you are Obama et al you fully explain the rational, and the need. You don’t just give a pretty speech and then bask in the applause. You gird the nation to do what must be done. You do this because the National Interest of the US and its reputation is on the line. If you make a case for intervention based on humanitarian reasons you better be consistent. You link Libya and Syria together because it really is one and the same thing. You can not play favorites, or try to split hairs. The logic is inescapable. You will be called out if you try to fudge.
Yet Obama will fudge, and dawdle, and temporize. What else can he do? There are no good options, there are no half measures, there is no way to “calibrate” this mess. The big lie is that we can have some kind of limited response. There is no limit to this, one act will lead to another and we will blunder into a death by a thousands cuts the minute we reach for a military option. Syria is a black hole of chaos, get too close and the nation gets sucked into the vortex.
We never had a dog in this fight. We do not have one now. We can only add to the tragedy. Will our reputation be damaged by doing nothing now? Yes it will. But it we will suffer worse if we rush in like fools were angles dare not tread.