Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Stumbling Into Syria

From David Bromwich, at the New York Review:
Reporters working in Syria—most recently Robert Worth in an article in The New York Times Magazine—have converged on a single unhappy perception: far and away the largest and most capable groups of rebels are jihadists. That is a central fact of this uprising. But the fall of the town of Qusair to Hezbollah forces, in the first week of June, and the realization that Aleppo is also in jeopardy have turned the war so heavily in Assad’s favor that an all-out campaign for French, British, and American intervention has now been launched. The French “new philosopher” and journalist Bernard-Henri Levy did much to persuade Nicholas Sarkozy of the propriety of organizing a NATO war to overthrow Qaddafi; in a characteristic recent column for The Daily Beast, Levy nicknames Assad “the Syrian killer” and speaks of the danger that now threatens the morale and substance of the West:
The surrender of Aleppo to the death squads of Hezbollah would be a fresh eruption of carnage whose victims would be heaped atop the hundred thousand already claimed by this atrocious war against a civilian population.
He affirms that “Aleppo belongs not to Syria but to the world”—a stirring phrase of ambiguous import—and he numbers the recent crimes against civilization by Serbs and Islamists: “those past crimes haunt our collective conscience.” The failures of the West have all been failures to wage the necessary humanitarian wars against Slavic or Islamist fanatics.

It must be admitted that American policy has fallen short of demands like these. We sided with Islamist rebels in Afghanistan, under the name of Mujahideen fighters, and against the same rebels under the names of Taliban and al-Qaeda; we fought against them in Iraq during the 2004 insurgency, and stood at their side as paymasters and allies when they became the “Sunni Awakening” in 2007; we were against them in Mali, Somalia, and Yemen, but allied with them as the courageous militias in Libya; and now in Syria, we are both for them and against them—allies insofar as they agree with us in attacking the government, but opponents because they want to dominate or kill the moderate rebels to whom we intend to ship arms. We will wage war against them after they help us to win the war against Assad.
That's an excellent analysis, and Bromwich lays the blame for an inevitable fiasco right at the feet of Barack Obama.

Be sure to RTWT.