The stakes in Syria

Should our “war weary” nation be concerned if the Assad regime — now the puppet of Iran and Russia — survives the Syrian civil war? The estimable David Pryce-Jones, writing for NRO, thinks so:

Syria is not intrinsically a valuable asset, but Iran would have it as a territorial base from which to control Iraq and Lebanon, and to menace Israel. Russia would have a permanent naval and military facility on the Mediterranean, capable of expansion. Videos show the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the field in Syria, with Hezbollah men parading alongside and – sinister omen – giving the straight-arm Nazi salute. . . .

The United States decided not to take any measures to detach Syria from the clutches of this coalition. President Obama has limited himself to sound-bites wishing for the departure of Bashar Assad. . . .

In the Cold War, Russia nearly got hold of the Middle East by backing Arab nationalists, and now it is getting hold of the Middle East by backing Shiite imperialism. The ensuing humiliation of the United States is self-inflicted, that’s the worst of it.

I would add that our humiliation is “self-inflicted” not just by President Obama, but also by Congress, which responded more slavishly than Obama to the public’s war weariness.

One response to Pryce-Jones’ critique is to defend our inaction against Assad’s on the view that his rebel opponents are as bad as, or worse than, the Syrian butcher. I addressed this contention here, and will have more to say about it.

For now, I recommend to you this Ricochet podcast with Avik Roy and Eil Lake, one of the best national security affairs reporters in the business. Lake argues that there remain moderate opposition forces in Syria that would benefit from U.S. backing, and might still succeed if we were to provide them with support.

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