“Our biggest problem is ignorance; we’re pretty ignorant about Syria,” said Ryan C. Crocker, a former ambassador to Syria and Lebanon, who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan and is dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University.
The American strike could hit President Assad’s military without fundamentally changing the dynamic in a stalemated civil war that has already left more than 100,000 people dead. At the same time, few expect that a barrage of cruise missiles would prompt either side to work in earnest for a political settlement. Given that, the skeptics say it may not be worth the risks.
“I don’t see any advantage,” said a Western official who closely observes Syria. ...NYT
The Syrian civil war was formerly an uprising against the brutality of a despot. It has become a battle among sects and ethnicities over which group of Syrians should control the country; part of a fight for regional leadership involving Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Iran; and an extension of the battlefield on which al-Qaeda affiliates carry out their messianic violence.
The complex and dreadful evolution of the conflict has shaken the moral and strategic justifications for intervention, even a short one focused on punishing the regime for its use of chemical weapons and deterring future use. ...SteveCook,CFR,WaPo
The vote puts President Obama between a rock and a hard place. The formerly solid Anglo-American solidarity has been broken. Obama does not have the Arab League and he does not have the UN Security Council. He does not even have a consensus on the European continent.
Obama should pivot now and choose vigorous diplomacy over a military strike. The latter will now have no legitimacy in international law, and would not be supported even by the British parliament.
The duplicity of Bush and Blair has deeply injured faith in government, even on the part of members of government. Their use of the high-flown rhetoric of protecting helpless populations from tyrants and deflecting dire threats of WMD cheapened those endeavors and trivialized them They bent the sword of state and rendered it useless in any similar situation. ...JuanCole,InformedComment
The civil war in Syria is coming at a cost to Americans, even in the absence of cruise missiles or other overt interventionism. Here it is in a chart. This is the one-month forward contract for a barrel of crude oil on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In other words, the price of oil, more or less. It’s down a bit Friday after a steep rise since the spring.
The pattern is quite clear. The price of oil is up 24 percent since April 17, from $87 a barrel to around $108. It has hovered near 18-month highs in the past few days. ... Oil traders aren’t just responding to this or that supply disruption, but making bets on the long-shot probabilities of an all-out conflagration that spreads to bigger oil producers elsewhere in the Middle East. ...Wonkblog
...A truly humanitarian intervention must have "right intention" -- it must be designed for the express purpose of protecting civilians from predation at the hands of their government. But it is very clear that the military campaign envisioned is not really about protecting civilians from Assad or an ongoing civil war. Instead, as Kerry reiterated today, the goal is to enforce a weapons norm through a punitive strike. While this may well be a laudable goal in itself and may indeed do some good in reinforcing an important global norm, there is no evidence to suggest that it will have an immediate and beneficial humanitarian effect -- indeed much to the contrary.
Enter another important principle: that any intervention undertaken to protect civilians have a "reasonable likelihood of success" and avoid making things worse. Even if a Western strike were the most effective way possible to enforce the chemical weapons taboo -- and this itself is debated -- it is far less clear that such a strike would have a reasonable likelihood of success when it comes to the wider goal of protecting civilians. In fact, much data and analysis suggests the contrary. A recent study has found that intervening on behalf of rebels increases the number of civilians who are killed. While international relations professor Jon Western of Mount Holyoke College rightly points out that it depends on the type of intervention, successful missions have typically included robust mandates, ambitious goals, a willingness to stay the course, and significant resources from the international community subsequent to the invasion. Many involved regime change. In other words, the kind of intervention most likely to actually protect civilians is the polar opposite of the one now being proposed. ...CharliCarpenter,UMass,The Atlantic