Home  > Historical Perspectives
The madness of our ‘plan’ for Syria / While we wait, civilians die (NEW YORK DAILY NEWS OP-ED) Richard Cohen 05/01/12)Source: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/madness-plan-syria-article-1.1069996 NEW YORK DAILY NEWS NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
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 must die.

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 forces become.

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 ground.

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. 05/01/12)


Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY