The madness of our ‘plan’ for Syria / While we wait, civilians die (NEW YORK DAILY NEWS OP-ED) Richard Cohen 05/01/12)
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The United States seems to have two plans to deal with what is fast
becoming a civil war in Syria. Plan A calls for the full
implementation of the UN ceasefire and the complete cooperation of
Bashar Assad, a dictator who would, at the risk of his very life,
give up some power to the opposition.
Plan B, on the other hand, envisions a military response through air
power. For that to be implemented, Plan A must fail and more Syrians
Just how many more Syrians must die no one can say. But it seems
pretty clear that the toll — now in excess of 9,000 — must mount
before the U.S., NATO and maybe the Turks and the Saudis will move to
bring the slaughter to a halt. Bloomberg News reports that “more than
500 people” have been killed since the start of the ceasefire on
April 12. This ceasefire is more fire than cease.
Few people in Washington have much faith in the UN plan, advanced by
former Secretary General Kofi Annan. He has been doing what he has
been trained to do — go through the motions of peacemaking.
Time is not on the side of moderation or accommodation. The longer
the killing goes on, the more radical and extreme the anti-Assad
The intelligentsia that initially supported the movement will be
marginalized by Islamic extremists — volunteers from nearby Arab
countries who can’t abide Assad and his secularism. (Already,
bombings have been reported.)
As with Saddam Hussein, his late neighbor, Assad and his family have
long been at odds with the Muslim Brotherhood and similar
organizations. In 1982, Assad’s father killed perhaps 20,000 in the
Brotherhood stronghold of Hama. It is now payback time.
Those of us who have long advocated that the U.S. put some muscle
into its diplomacy — even bomb Syrian military installations and
impose a no-fly zone — have to concede the difficulties entailed.
The Syrian air-defense system is thick, designed by the Russians to
deter an Israeli attack. The composition of the Syrian opposition is
largely unknown. More worrisome, Syria has a vast stockpile of
chemical and biological weapons.
Still, none of this is insurmountable. Israel was able to bomb a
suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007, apparently without losing a
single airplane — and whatever Israel can do, the U.S. can do as
well. What’s missing at the moment is not the wherewithal to deal
militarily with the Assad regime but the will to do so — and to do so
expeditiously. This is a matter of leadership and, so far, President
Obama has provided precious little.
In “Prague Winter,” her compelling new memoir, former Secretary of
State Madeleine Albright emphasizes the importance of leadership — or
its lack — in world affairs. As a woman, she is the Czechoslovakian-
born daughter of Josef Korbel and Anna Spiegelova. As a diplomat, she
is a daughter of Munich, the infamous agreement that turned part of
her country over to Nazi Germany.
The Munich analogy can be overdone. (Saddam was no Hitler.) But the
analogy to the supposed antidote to Munich, Vietnam, can also be
overdone. Not every military action is a quagmire. The military
interventions in Bosnia, Kosovo and Libya did not require boots on
The Syrian revolution is going to spiral into something awful. The
longer it lasts, the more people die and the greater the chance of it
spilling across borders. The plan, as it is now, is to wait for the
inevitable — the failure of Kofi Annan and, after that, the
predictable failure of an arms embargo that will weaken the
opposition much more than it will Assad.
Somehow, multiple failures are supposed to lead to success. That’s
worse than Munich. It’s madness. (© Copyright 2012 NYDailyNews.com.
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