An Update on the Syrian Situation
By Adam Dahmer
In last week’s column, released online, I argued that military intervention in Syria was ill-conceived. The Wilsonian notion of America as a dispenser of global justice operates counter to the US national interest, and makes American leaders seem hypocritical when they apply the doctrine unevenly throughout the world. Since the writing of that article, US-Syrian relations have improved considerably.
Whether as brilliant political strategy or simply a casual off-the-cuff remark, Secretary of State John Kerry spontaneously delivered an ultimatum earlier this week whereby Syria could avoid war by placing its chemical arsenal in the hands of international overseers and allowing all of its component weapons to be destroyed. Russia, ever eager to aid its staunch Syrian ally, almost immediately accepted the offer on behalf of the Assad regime, and wasted no time in convincing the Syrian government to endorse the plan.
So, it seems that disaster has been averted. No chemical weapons means no more perceived moral mandate on part of the US to wage war in Syria. The mood should be jubilant for the war-weary everywhere…or should it? The airwaves and the internet are rife with speculation as to whether the Russo-Syrian acceptance of the Kerry disarmament proposal is a legitimate bid for lasting peace, or just an underhanded stall for time. If the latter, it seems to be working according to plan. While Secretary Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, negotiate the fine details of the proposal in Geneva, agents of the Assad regime could be priming the weapons in question for yet another strike against suspected rebels, or secreting them out-of-country so as to honestly reply, when asked about the presence of Syrian chemical weapons, that — regardless of what was said before — there simply aren’t any.
So, in the event that the disposal proposal really is a Russian-engineered ploy to buy time for a cornered dictator, should the US eventually fulfill its threat to wage war? The arguments against engagement in Syria would be as strong as ever. It is not sound policy for a nation to act against its self interest, and attempting to militarily enforce Internationally approved moral standards in a Middle-Eastern dictatorship’s excruciatingly brutal civil war can hardly stand to greatly benefit the Syrian region, let alone the US. The great irony, however, is that America has become so deeply entangled in the conflict that it might neither remain in the national interest to remain militarily uninvolved. Obama’s much pilloried ultimatum to Assad concerning chemical weapons – and the administration’s slow response when it was ignored – was bad enough, but the added insult of being duped by a shameless ploy enabled by Russian complicity would, if ignored, signal to world governments that American threats of force were empty.
Hopefully, nothing is amiss, and the negotiations are a sincere attempt by Moscow to prevent an unnecessary armed conflict. If that be the case, then the Obama administration’s threat of force paid off without reaching its deadly fruition. Even in that event, however, the decision to threaten military intervention absent probable potential for national benefit was still a gamble, and not one that I would urge any world leader to make in the future.