March 12, 2012 Leave a comment
UPDATE: July 24, 2012 Assad Delenda Est: The Case for Aiding Syria’s Rebels
Syria is the most unpredictable of the Arab Spring compared, say, to Yemen, Egypt, Libya or Tunisia. It’s a potential sectarian nightmare once Assad is overthrown, not unlike Lebanon in the 80s or more recently Iraq.
However, the future is equally grim if Assad is not overthrown. The war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed by his forces in Homs and elsewhere must stop. It looks like it’s going to have to be the lesser of the two evils. Do what it takes to protect innocent civilians, whether that’s arming the Free Syrian Army or a full intervention with all the unforeseen consequences.
“Here’s to John McCain, leading from the front. Last week, the Arizona senator cut through all the White House doubletalk on the Syrian uprising and demanded a more active U.S. policy, including provision of arms to the Free Syrian Army as well as airpower to slow the assaults of Bashar al-Assad’s murderous regime.
McCain grilled senior administration officials and military officers, and set the record straight regarding the disposition of the Syrian rebels. Over the past several weeks, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have both claimed, without evidence, that al Qaeda had infiltrated the opposition. Last week McCain countered: The Syrian rebels are “not fighting and dying because they are Muslim extremists.” The administration then started to walk back its charges. What the White House really meant, said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, is that al Qaeda is looking to “exploit” the situation.
As well they might. The Syrian uprising is now a year old. There is no official toll, but the dead may number 10,000 or more. It’s gone on long enough, says McCain. With his Senate colleagues Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham, McCain released a statement calling for “relief from Assad’s tank and artillery sieges. . . . Providing military assistance to the Free Syrian Army and other opposition groups is necessary, but as Assad continues to intensify his assault, that alone will not be sufficient to stop the slaughter and save innocent lives. The only realistic way to do so is with foreign airpower.” The three senators realize that this “will first require the United States and our partners to suppress the Syrian regime’s air defenses in at least part of the country.”
As usual, the administration had excuses for inaction. “That air defense system,” Panetta told the Senate, “is pretty sophisticated.” According to the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, it is “approximately five times more sophisticated . . . than existed in Libya.”
McCain bristled. “We spend almost $1 trillion a year on the military,” he told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “And we can’t take out air defenses of Syria? That is an horrific waste of the taxpayers’ dollars.”
McCain’s right. We’re not talking about NORAD here. In 2007 the Israelis had no trouble disabling Syrian air defenses before their air raid on the Al Kibar nuclear reactor in the Syrian desert. And that was hardly the first time the Israeli Air Force ran roughshod over the Syrians. Damascus’s Russian-supplied air capabilities, defensive and offensive, are a running joke in the region.