Saturday, August 31, 2013

Syria Needs a Political Solution, Not John Wayne

Excellent post, with links, at Qifa Nabki on the uselessness of trying to use military force to impose a settlement in Syria.  I might add:

1. Obama needs to walk back his "red line" misspeak . . . and the commentariat needs to let him, even encourage him, to walk it back.  He screwed up, and I'll bet he knows (and has been reminded umpteen times by his staff) that he screwed up.  That a lot of innocent Syrian people are likely to be made collateral damage just because a president chose his words poorly is a war crime in itself.

2. John McCain and any putative nuevos amigos need to get it through their heads: this is no longer a John Wayne America.  The US has no duty or prerogative - or, as Iraq and Afghanistan showed, capacity - to "get into the fight" and make the world right.  Too many of my generation still have their heads shrink-wrapped around the heroic World War II America of "Sands of Iwo Jima" or the crusading (early) Vietnam War America of "The Green Berets."  Asad is neither Tojo nor Ho Chi Minh (nor are Asad's backers - Vladimir Putin and the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei - Leonid Brezhnev).  The US can't "fix" Syria with military might.  

But what it could do - if certain parties would allow Obama the domestic political space - is lead an effort to get all parties to come together and make some hard deals.  That means Iran, and Russia, and the Saudis, as well as Asad's people and representatives from the Syrian opposition, both Arabs and Kurds, both Islamists and not.  It means the UN.  It means the Arab League.   Optimally, it ought not mean hard-line jihadists like Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS/ISIL (what exactly IS the appropriate acronym?), but with their presence now so firmly entrenched it would be difficult to shut them out completely.

And especially, it means the neighboring countries (Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, including reps from the KRG) that are now straining under the humanitarian burden and responsibility of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugess.  Syria's fragmentation is probably too far along for even the most skilled political negotiations and daring compromises to patch together a unitary country.  Notwithstanding, the focus now needs to be on ending the violence, from all sides, damping down sectarian anger, and healing devastated bodies, spirits,  and communities.

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