Events in Paris have underlined what we should have already understood. US and NATO intervention in Syria is as inevitable as the sunrise. As in Bosnia twenty years ago, every additional day Assad remains in power will cost months or even years of prolonged tension and instability down the line.
This subject might have offered Republicans some solid ground from which to criticize the Obama Administration but for a few inconvenient facts. For starters, Congressional Republicans blocked the Administration from taking action against Assad when the opening presented itself. Beyond that problem, GOP candidates seem incapable of offering any policy alternative that doesn’t dissolve into a word salad of platitudes.
Here’s a summary of what’s been posted on this at GOPLifer on each point:
Why we should already have intervened to topple the Assad government and end the open warfare phase of this mess:
“The lesson of our interventions over the past decade is that military power can be successful in toppling a government, but it is nearly useless in building a new one. In Syria, for example, the American military can reasonably expect to turn the balance of the war and bring it to a close while suffering few if any casualties. It cannot determine the shape of the political arrangements that subsequently emerge no matter how many troops we send or how long we stay.
“From Bosnia to Afghanistan, we have also learned that the longer a civil conflict continues, the more the outcome will be weighted in favor of criminals, despots and religious extremists. Intervention to speed the replacement of a doomed dictator is therefore useful not because it can turn a Libya into a Denmark, but because it will limit the subsequent influence of forces who will otherwise threaten order for decades to come.”
It is imperative that we understand what we are doing. This is not a war.
“This is an age of mass extinctions, driven by an explosion of human technological evolution. Those extinctions are not limited to rare frogs or charming songbirds. Social institutions, cultures, entire political frameworks are collapsing under pressure from new, more adaptive innovations. As these less durable frameworks collapse they create little black holes of chaos, murder and disease that contain the potential to undermine the entire environment.
“Terrorism, Ebola, mass immigration of unaccompanied minors – these are all essentially the same problem. Pockets of anarchy created by the collapse of poorly adapted institutions can be the birthing ground of new, freer, more liberal institutions. Or they can become poison factories. For those of us in rising Asia and the traditional West, decisions we make about how and when to intervene in these evolutionary episodes will grow increasingly complex and consequential as the world shrinks and only the hard cases remain to be worked out.
“This is not a military problem, though the problem has a military dimension. The first order of civilization is to monopolize the use of violence in order to make it accountable and therefore legitimate.
“Our enemy, per se, is not ISIS any more than the enemy is Ebola or unaccompanied migrant children. The enemy is chaos. Battling chaos might begin by using violence to thwart an organization like ISIS, but to accomplish any useful objective the fight must extend beyond the reach of the military. Using air power to combat ISIS is roughly equivalent to using fighter jets to stop the gangs on the west side of Chicago. It amounts to a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the situation. Violence does not create order, though it sometimes can be used to remove forces that stand in the way.”
And for those who still doubt it, American military power, when coupled with intelligent strategy and diplomatic skill, is an extremely potent force for order, human rights, and prosperity. Sometimes we make smart decisions. Sometimes we make stupid decisions. A brief review of our highs and lows:
“Those who deny the power of American diplomatic and military engagement to bring positive outcomes in the world are fighting against the tide of history. Those who convince themselves that American military power is always a positive force are making the same mistake. We need to develop a better sense of what kind of involvement can be successful, what success means, and how to place necessary moral and legal bounds on foreign actions. We’ve only been working on this question for about two hundred years, so maybe we’re almost there.”
If Republicans want to have any chance to win in 2016, they have to resist the urge to conflate the Paris attacks with their hardline immigration plans. When was the last time you saw a prominent Republican resist an urge?