Romney, Syria

I wouldn’t want anyone reading the previous post to think I’m particularly stoked about Mitt Romney; he’s a total squish on many issues of importance to conservatives, and just another democracy-exporting dreamer when it comes to foreign affairs.

Speaking of which: in this weeks Radio Derb, John Derbyshire zeroed in on the same comment from Mr. Romney’s VMI speech that I had singled out earlier:

In Syria I’ll work with our partners to identify and organize those members of the opposition who share our values and then ensure they obtain the arms they need to defeat Assad’s tanks helicopters and fighter jets.

Here’s Derb:

Quote from the Governor, quote: “In Syria I’ll work with our partners to identify and organize those members of the opposition who share our values and then ensure they obtain the arms they need to defeat Assad’s tanks, helicopters, and fighter jets … It’s essential that we develop influence with those forces in Syria that will one day lead a country that sits at the heart of the Middle East.” End quote.

In other words, Syria is Libya Two. Isn’t that what Romney’s saying? “Work with our partners …” I guess that means NATO — you know, that military alliance set up to prevent Soviet forces from surging through the Fulda Gap into West Germany. So we and NATO are going to do what? “Organize those members of the opposition who share our values.”

Let’s see: Who have we got in the Syrian opposition? Some middle-aged clerks and schoolteachers who kinda like the idea of representative government, separation of powers, free press, et cetera, and who would like nothing better than to sit around in dusty rooms talking about those things all day long. Well, nothing except perhaps a U.S. refugee visa … None of these people could tell you how to strip a light machine-gun, but never mind: They share our values!

Who else have we got in the Syrian opposition? Tens of thousands of cold-eyed young fanatics, armed to the teeth by Iran, led by fighters hardened in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, ready to die for their faith, or to keep fighting for twenty years if necessary. Do they share our values? No, they spit on our values.

So tell me again, Governor, who are we going to help here? Who are we going to arm?

Who, indeed?

Meanwhile, somebody‘s been arming some of the Syrian rebels with MANPADS — portable surface-to-air missiles. This means that Syrian planes have to attack ground positions from higher altitudes, which in turn means less-effective air assaults with higher collateral damage. (Among other things, the latter makes the world humanitarian crisis that much more unbearable.)

I suspect the stuff is from Libya. After all, who benefits? If the international interest (shared by, among others, Turkey, Iran, and the U.S.) is converging on a truce, on getting Assad out without the pain of de-Baathification — in other words maintaining an Alawite regime, or at least strong Alawite influence in a new coalition — that seems to me at odds with the interests of the sort of folks who would be at the other end of a supply line in Libya. I’ll presume also that Egypt would have some role too, because the factions in Libya who would be involved in this are also well-represented there. It seems to me that the question of regional stability around Syria means a lot less to the Islamists in the Maghreb than it does to, say, Turkey (who will face a terrible refugee problem in the event of an all-out civil war in Syria) or Iran (who wants to maintain its influence in Syria, and a Mediterranean corridor, by way of its Alawite allegiances).

All this this is idle speculation on my part, of course. There are so many competing and overlapping interests at play in this conflict that it would be very difficult for someone like me to keep on top of it all, even if I spent all my time doing nothing else. Just following all the open-source material would be a more-than-full-time job.

One Comment

  1. Dr. Strangelove says

    The escalation of the humanitarian crisis is highlighted by today’s arial bombing of Maaret al-Numain which mostly “non-combatants” (as much as that phase can be applied in a civil war) were killed. A mosque and apartment building were destroyed. The calculation by Assad is clear, if surface to air weapons are possessed by rebels, and I can no longer use low flying helicopters, then I rather indiscriminately bomb towns.

    This is completely a guess on my part but I wouldn’t be surprised if the surface to air capabilities were supplied by Turkey in order to make the humanitarian crisis even worse in order to force action by other parties. Turkey is terrified of this civil war turing into an opportunity for the PKK and having its own Kurdish citizens demanding it’s own nation once Syria falls apart. Having a western powers’ directed transition of power in Syria is what Turkey wants and supplying these weapons might make that more likely. (this is likely totally off base but it seems entirely possible considering how much Turkey has to lose in the crisis.)

    Posted October 18, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

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