International Relations, Ethnic Conflict, Civil-Military Relations, Academia, Politics in General, Selected Silliness
You could ponder the wisdom of "red lines" when options available are bad. And you might note that chemical weapons are actually quite a broad category and depending on how they are delivered , they may cause really no more casualties than sustained artillery fire. Or you could point out how in the face of bad options in former Yugoslavia what was US policy. Reunify Croatia, by allowing weapons into the Croats, plus advisors and trainers, preceded by using a proximate event to selectively strike the Bosnian Serbs and prepare the battlefield. Then allow the Croatian forces to expel the Serbs and to cross into Bosnia and join the fight there. I should add that this was preceded by mediation between Bosnian Muslims and Croats factions. So I think the US has been trying to follow the playbook. Create a unified opposition government. Allow weapons in to the opposition along with advisors. Now this--the discovery of chemical weapons use- may be the pretext for a bombing campaign to tilt the balance toward the rebels and to shock the Alawite military into overthrowing the regime. One thing that hasn't been discussed is how the regime may be hoping for peace talks to freeze the conflict and perpetuate its survival.
The issues are so complex that any one discussion is not capable of putting out a single solid answer. While Hagel announced that some chemical weapons, " specifically the chemical agent sarin" were used, he also stated that, "we still have uncertainties about what was used, what kind of chemicals was used, where it was used, who used it." I am still confused how it is possible that these two statements can exist in a single address to the press, but perhaps this is why I am not in the business of politics. With that being said, the White House is also backpedaling from a bold claim of U.S. intervention, stating now that the red-line has not in fact been crossed. The questions that I have to weigh are, is it possible for the U.S. to not intervene if there is "definitive proof" that makes its way out? Would a non-intervention, lessen the credibility of the United States, after being so bold on the matter? That being said, can the U.S. afford a conflict in Syria, either politically, or economically? While foreign policy is key, it has to live in conjunction with domestic policy. While we are furloughing federal agencies and cannot seem to "keep the lights on", can the U.S. afford to move from one war into another? There is no doubt that Syria will not be another Libya. The escalation of force will be rapid and so will the loss of life. In an event where there is not a "good-guy" to choose from, having to choose between a person willing to gas his own people, or a radicalized insurgency? In June of 2012 there was talk of the need for Syrian military forces to remain in tact after Assad is removed form power, but is this even likely if there is a large-scale intervention? The U.S., known for a "go-it-alone" approach is in no condition to actually "win" this type of situation. Making hard-line claims and backing away from them only seems to show the fragile state in which the U.S. is currently poised. Would love to hear what you go with. Keep us updated!
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