Israel/Palestine: The Politics of a Two-State Solution

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Intervention in Syria?

The op-ed columns of the quality newspapers have been full of columns arguing for and against American intervention in Syria over the last several months. I have yet to see an argument that explains credibly how it would be in the American national interest to intervene in Syria. This lack of logic is pointed out in a piece from The Nation, which I normally do not find myself in agreement with. Most that attempt this sort of argument explain that we need to intervene in order to buy influence at the bargaining table. They claim that the Saudis and other Gulf Arabs who are now backing the opposition in Syria are not interested in democracy and human rights. This is true. But anyone who knows Islamists or even ordinary Muslims knows that they are like those pious Christians who ignore all the direct causes of anything that happens and attribute it all to God. If Washington gave arms to the Free Syrian Army or another outfit, the group would be happy to claim credit for Allah. Washington would be only a conduit. Is it really necessary to be grateful to a mere conduit?

And we are told that we would be providing these arms to the "moderates." Washington has a long record of supporting unsavory moderates that goes back decades. In the Russian Civil War we intervened on the side of anti-semitic monarchist Whites. Even with our aid and that of several other European countries and Japan they still lost. During World War II and the Chinese Civil War that followed we supported the corrupt Guomindang (Chinese Nationalist/Kuomintang) regime against the Communists and lost. In Vietnam we supported the generals, whom we put into power in a coup in 1963, against the Communists and again lost. General Ky, head of the air force, was an admirer of Adolf Hitler.This was because the generals had all started their careers fighting with the French colonial occupation and were corrupt. In Nicaragua we supported the Somoza dynasty because FDR said, "Somoza is a son of a bitch, but he is our son of a bitch." After appropriating much of the foreign aid after a 1971 earthquake, the Somozas were overthrown after only a few months of real fighting in 1979. In Angola we supported Jonas Savimbi, also called Dr. Savimbi by his supporters in the U.S. although he had no doctorate. Savimbi claimed to be a moderate although he had supported Mao in his youth. After a ceasefire agreement in the decades-old civil war led to free elections that he lost, Savimbi rekindled the war. He lengthened the war for another two years until he was finally killed.

 Edward Luttwak, who briefly lived in the Middle East decades ago before moving to the U.S., wrote this article about intervention in Syria. What is the record of the Arab Spring in producing democracy so far? It is 0 for 3. Does anyone really believe that American arms will suddenly produce democracy in Syria? Does anyone really believe that those bleating for intervention now will refrain the next time around after a failure to produce in Syria? No, they are part of the Washington culture. For those who argue that American credibility and reputation are at stake, I simply ask: What did American intervention in Iraq do for America's reputation and credibility? Here, former Mossad director Efraim Halevy explains what Israel's interest in Syria is. It is clearly not the same as that of the neo-conservatives and liberal interventionists, although both claim to love Israel. Here is a column by classical historian and conservative Victor Davis Hanson outlining the unexpected costs of wars. Here is another article about the lessons of Iraq and Libya for Syria.

In Syria we should help those refugees who make it out of the country to Turkey, Iraq, and Jordan--along with the Arab Gulf states and our European and Asian allies. But we should save intervention for regions where democracy is really at stake, like Europe and East Asia. 

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