When Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, the life-long bitter foe of Communism Winston Churchill got on the phone right away to Joseph Stalin, and, while never forgetting what Stalin was, offered Britain’s help in staving off Germany. A few days later Churchill said that he “would unsay none of his criticisms” of Communism, but that if Hitler invaded Hell, he would at least make a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.
This has long been a controversial matter, with some conservatives, including Pat Buchanan, thinking Churchill should have reached terms with Hitler and allowed Hitler and Stalin to fight to the death. (Another person who mused along these lines at the time was Missouri Senator Harry Truman.) Churchill knew early on that allying with the Soviet Union likely meant that the Soviet Union would end up in possession of half of Europe at the end, but, unable to defeat Germany alone, Churchill concluded that half of Europe free was better than none of Europe free, which might well have been the result of exiting the war against Hitler.
This is prologue for . . . Syria. Fred Siegel writes in to bring our attention to this article in The Daily Beast: “Syrian Rebel Wants a New Ally: Israel.” Its author, Kamal al-Labwani, is one of the leaders of the Syrian opposition, and has spent lots of time in Syrian prisons. It’s an extraordinary step for an Arab to call openly for the help of Israel:
I recently proposed a controversial idea: asking Israel to help our opposition get rid of the most brutal dictator alive today. I said that this is our joint challenge and one that is much more important than the Golan Heights. Golan in the future can remain a garden of peace for all. I believe that Israel is able to be a partner, not an enemy. After meeting with dozens of rebels in the majority of Syrian provinces, I believe that many would support such a plan.
I’m no expert in this situation, but have surmised that from Israel’s point of view, while Assad is a monster, he is a known quantity, easily deterred by Israel’s military might. What regime might replace Assad if he is toppled is not clear, but it could easily be a less stable situation.
On the other hand, it would not surprise me at all to learn someday that Israel has been trying to help the “moderate” factions of whom al-Labwani speaks. (Likewise if Israel strikes Iran’s nuclear facilities, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn years from now that it was done with the full cooperation of the Saudis and other Arab Gulf states, though they will all publicly and loudly denounce Israel’s “aggression.”) It would indeed be an implicit rebuke if Israel were to achieve decent relations with a new regime in Syria while the Palestinian Authority continues to negotiate in bad faith over the West Bank. Stranger things have happened—like Churchill allying with Stalin against an even worse evil.
There’s an additional wrinkle to consider: if Israel were to play some role, either openly or more covertly, it would also stand as an implicit rebuke to the fecklessness of Obama’s foreign policy. That’s one reason to think it might not be merely a good idea, but perhaps likely to take place.