I don’t know what the hell to do about Syria—which is fine, given that no one is asking and I’m in no position to do anything anyway.
Still, I do like the sound of my own voice, so I need to say: “I don’t know what the hell to do about Syria.”
George Packer’s ambivalence is, rightly, getting lots of links. Bashar al-Assad is a bloody-minded dictator willing to murder his way across his country in order to keep that country his: If the people don’t want him, they don’t deserve him, and thus will be killed.
He is willing, in other words, to do anything to survive.
Given that, Packer’s question goes right to the point: “I want you to explain what we’re going to achieve by bombing.”
Is the Obama administration or France or NATO willing to go after Assad? If so, what then? Iraq redux?
And if not, why bother?
It’s possible that someone could come up with a decent argument for limited multilateral intervention—that it would, in fact, materially improve the prospects of a decent life for more Syrians than not—but even Fred Kaplan, who offers the most optimistic realistic appraisal of intervention, riddles that appraisal with hedges, questions, and doubts.
I don’t have any difficulty believing that Assad gassed his own people. Some argue that he must have been set up because who would be so stupid to loose sarin on a neighborhood with UN inspectors on the ground, but is it really such a stretch to think a homicidal megalomaniac might have issues with logic and reason? Conversely, that he’s a homicidal megalomaniac doesn’t mean he can’t calculate the odds of any intervention resulting in his ouster sufficiently low to make a terror-inducing gas attack worth his while.
In either case, we’re back to the obvious: he’ll burn his country before he hands it over to the traitors and cowards who would rather live without him.
That’s a horrible, horrible situation for Syrians, and produces the horrible paradox, as well: We want to intervene because it’s horrible, but because it’s so horrible, we can’t intervene.
Not unless we want to burn the country down ourselves.