The time has passed to arm Syrian rebels

Last week, in a speech at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Marco Rubio called for the United States to provide ammunition to the Syrian opposition. And nearly every week, it seems, John McCain argues that the U.S. should supply arms to that opposition.

But Michael Rubin argues, persuasively I think, that the time has passed to take such action because the Syrian opposition is now dominated by radical forces hostile to the U.S. and to freedom:

Much has already been written about the Nusra Front, a group supported by both Turkey and Saudi Arabia and which the United States considers an Al Qaeda affiliate and has designated a terrorist group. . . .[T]he Nusra Front now appears to be recruiting the most militant Islamists out there; being Syrian or fighting for Syrian freedom has nothing to do with their struggle. The opposition has radicalized, and the most responsible, moderate, and nationalist elements have been purged. Should Bashar al-Assad fall tomorrow, Syria will not be a democracy: At best there would be an ongoing civil war, and at worst the al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists who have taken root inside Syria will consolidate their control.

What, then, should the U.S. do? It should protect U.S. interests:

The United States should prepare to use its airpower to neutralize any group which threatens U.S. national security. It must have contingencies to seize and destroy chemical munitions—no easy feat, as it took weeks to accomplish that task in Libya in 2003, and that was with Libyan government cooperation.

Rubin believes, and he may well be right, that at an earlier point in the Syrian civil war the U.S. should have thrown its weight behind certain rebel forces. But President Obama let that moment slip away:

At present, President Obama’s reticence is correct, but only because his incompetence on the Syria issue has created a self-fulfilling prophecy, one which U.S. administrations will be dealing with for decades to come.

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