Quote of the Day   Leave a comment

Fareed Zakaria:

But, first, here’s my take, Those urging the U.S. to intervene in Syria are certain of one thing, if we had gotten in sooner, things would be better in that war-torn country.

Had the Obama Administration gotten involved earlier, there would be less instability and fewer killings. We would not be seeing, in John McCain’s words this week, “Atrocities that are on a scale that we have not seen in a long, long time.”

In fact, we have seen atrocities much worse than those in Syria very recently, in Iraq only few years ago. From 2003 to 2012, despite there being as many as 180,000 American and allied troops in Iraq, somewhere between 150,000 and 300,000 Iraqi civilians died and about 1.5 million fled the country.

Jihadi groups flourished throughout Iraq, and al-Qaeda had a huge presence there. Now, the U.S. was about as actively engaged in Iraq as is possible, and yet more terrible things happened there than in Syria. Why?

The point here is not to make comparisons among atrocities. The point is that the situation in Syria is much like that in Iraq. We can learn a lot from our experience there.

All the features of Syria’s civil war that are supposedly the result of U.S. nonintervention bloomed in Iraq despite America’s massive intervention there.

In Iraq under U.S. occupation, jihadi terrorists of all stripes flourished. They employed tactics that were brutal beyond belief, putting electric drills through people’s heads, burning others alive and dumping still breathing victims into mass graves.

These struggles get vicious for a reason. The stakes are very high. Joshua Landis, America’s leading scholar on Syria, points out that Syria is the last of three great minority ruled regimes in the Middle East.

In Lebanon, the first, the Christian minority was displaced in a 15-year, bloody civil war. In Iraq, the U.S. displaced the Sunni minority, but they then fought back brutally, again, a long, bloody civil war. Syria is following precisely that pattern.

The minority regime fights to the end because it fears for its life once out of power. The Sunnis of Iraq fought even against the mighty American military because they knew that life under the majority Shias would be ugly, as it has proved to be.

The Alawites, the ruling sect in Syria, will fight even harder because they are a smaller minority and have further to fall.

Now, would U.S. intervention, no-fly zones, arms, aid to the opposition forces, make things better? Well, it depends on what one means by better.

It would certainly intensify the civil war. It would also make the regime of Bashar Assad more desperate. Perhaps Assad has already used chemical weapons; with his back against the wall, he might use them on a larger scale.

If the objective is actually to reduce the atrocities and minimize potential instability, the key will be a political settlement that gives each side, minorities and majority, an assurance that it has a place in the new Syria.

That was never achieved in Iraq, which is why, despite U.S. troops and arms and influence, the situation turned into a violent free-for-all. If some kind of political pact can be reached, there’s hope for Syria.

If it cannot, U.S. assistance to the rebels or even direct military intervention won’t change much. Syria will follow the pattern of Lebanon and Iraq, a long, bloody civil war. And the United States will be in the middle of it.



Posted May 6, 2013 by tmusicfan in Politics, Quote of the Day

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