The Intervention drums Beat for Syria, But To What End? - Spectator Blogs

20 November 2012

Poor Syria. The Syrian opposition struggled for attention before the latest Israel-Hamas conflagration. Yet despite this, the agitation for intervention continues. But to what end? That’s a question I ask in a piece for Foreign Policy:

The international community’s attitude is best-summarized by a recent headline from America’s most reliable news source, The Onion: “Having Gone This Far Without Caring About Syria, Nation To Finish What It Started.” That may be about to change, however as European powers — as such Britain and France insist they be deemed — inch closer and closer to intervening in the Syrian tragedy.

[…] British and French agitation still resembles nothing so much as an unorthodox variation on the classic governmental mantra: Something Must Be Done. In this instance, the novelty is this: no Something has actually been identified.
There is talk of lifting the arms embargo that currently hampers the Syrian opposition’s attempts to topple Bashar al-Assad’s regime. There is talk too of establishing a “no-fly zone” in Syrian skies and yet more talk of creating — and, presumably, defending — “safe havens” within Syria. There is, you will gather, a lot of talk.

All of which leads one to suspect that the road to Damascus, like that to hell, is paved with good intentions. Fine words and noble sentiments are harmless enough provided they do not become the spur for reckless adventures that begin in the haze of sentiment and are likely to end in the fog of unintended consequences. Moreover, one cannot quite resist the doubtless ignoble thought that it is irresponsible for Britain and France to make promises they’re in little position to deliver. Call it Operation Raising False Hope, if you like.

[…] Yet absent American support for intervention, what can Britain or France realistically achieve? They retain some diplomatic clout at the United Nations but unless the United States moves, neither China nor Russia seem likely to be persuaded to lift their objections to foreign intervention in Syria. Even if Moscow and Beijing were to change their minds (an unlikely scenario), the British and French are likely to need American logistical and military support if they’re to achieve anything. In this respect, they are not so much writing checks they cannot cash as forging American checks and trusting that Washington will not mind honoring them. This seems a mildly reckless course of action.

Whole thing here.

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  • Beefeater

    France and Britain are to recognize the new, unified Syrian opposition as the “sole, legitimate representatives of the Syrian people.” Rings a bell. Wonder who’ll be the new Arafat?

  • CraigStrachan

    Excellent article, Alex. FP is turning out to be a good fit for you.

    Intervention in Syria would be the third act in the proxy war between the U.S and Iran. (The first two being the Iran/Iraq war, and the GW Bush intervention in Iraq.) I wouldn’t bet against Iran coming out with its power in the region enhanced, as it did on those previous occasions.

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