Let Me Save You Time on Syria

After a day of trying to upload the rest of the videos and thinking about what I can do to present what limited information I have in some journalistically responsible way, I’ve reached my limit.

Let me put this to you simply. Assad is a monster. He is evil beyond comprehension. No one is going to stop him until he and everyone around him is dead. But you’re out of your minds if you convince yourself the FSA is comprised of potentially friendly, liberal democrats. There’s not a liberal democrat between here and the Horn of Africa, just trust me on this; they don’t even know what those words mean, they just know that you have to say them if you want to have any hope of being saved by those weird but freakishly powerful Americans for whom the words “liberal democrats” are the magic elixer. There will be no friendly, moderate, secular regime in Syria, ever, and the first thing the FSA will do if anyone helps them is slaughter Alawites and Christians. Everyone knows it, and at this point, who could possibly be surprised and who could blame them. They hate the world in this descending order, with allowances for overlap: Shia, Jews, Christians, Iran, America, Israel, Russia, Turkey. They’ll probably hate each other, too, soon enough. 

The only options here are unbearably awful and unspeakably awful. There’s no happy outcome. The United States remains the only country in the world with anything like the military power to change this situation in a meaningful way, and nothing but military power will affect it, and the US isn’t going to use it. Our economy is in the tank, we’re tied down around the world, we’re hamstrung by Russia and Iran. We’re done with this region; we’re not even interested.

We will be blamed for not intervening, just as we were blamed for intervening in Iran and Iraq, and everyone will forget that both intervening and not intervening are moral choices; and the US was never presented–ever–with a choice between supporting good and supporting evil in this part of the world, just between supporting evil and supporting slightly-less-evil. In a choice between supporting evil and supporting slightly less-evil, slightly-less-evil equals good. That’s the real world.

America is a democracy, and you can’t get innocent, naive democrats like Americans, people who have never seen evil in their entire lives outside of the movies, to get behind the use of military force to create “slightly less evil,” so you tell them they’re fighting for liberal democracy like the kind they enjoy and for which they–rightly–feel grateful. When they find out the truth, that they were sent to defend slightly-less-evil, they become disillusioned and withdraw from the world, sometimes for decades. The world doesn’t improve because of that, no matter what anyone thinks.  

So, yeah, they’re Islamists, not the shy flower of the Scottish Enlightenment, but they seem to have some interest in democracy, and they talk about the Turkish model, which I’m sure they don’t understand, but which, if it means to them, “Islamic and democratic,” is probably a good thing. Maybe if you could get enough UN peacekeepers in there fast enough after Assad falls, you could prevent some of the slaughter of the minorities that would otherwise ensue. Maybe you could get a functional state up-and-running fast enough that Syria doesn’t become the Somalia of the Levent, maybe not. 

The risk right now to Syria’s neighbors, if it tries to help, is extreme: Assad holds the PKK card, it has huge stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. The regime is going bankrupt, at the very least there will be floods of refuges if this continues, Turkey certainly can’t absorb them. The Russians would be perfectly happy for every man, woman and child in Syria to be tortured and killed so long as nothing gets between itand its warm water base at Tartus. The French and the British will make very stern noises, but what are they going to do. UN? Useless. Arab League? Useless. GCC? Useless. 

Meanwhile, those kids are dying. I’ve met some of them, Ilhan has met many more, and they’re kids who have been pushed into radicalism because they’re going to be killed tomorrow, so you better well hope there’s a better life on the other side. It’s that simple, really. 

The only plan I can think of that might have a hope of working is to ask Turkey to accept as many refugees as necessary–with our financial help if needed–and for Turkey publicly to flood arms over the border in the hope that this breaks the Assad forces’ will and prompts massive defections. Ilhan thought that was plausible. Assad and his closest intimates should be offered a nice place to retire, quickly. Istanbul or Paris would be fine; London might make Asma, Rose of the Desert feel more at home. Resettle the Druze to Israel and the Alawites to Iran. Pour in aid to reconstruct the place. It won’t happen, the US economy’s a mess. On the plus side, losing Syria will be a terrible blow to Iran. That’s the only plus side. 

9. “They’re not happy with you guys … I do believe that the US has to show that it is with the people. OK, a lot of statements are coming out, but no body cares about statements about now, You hear. over and over, the US doesn’t care about us. Now is a good time to change this perspective.”

10. Ilhan tries to answer your specific questions:

Ilhan will have a log-on tomorrow and may be able to answer any further questions you have.

Glad I was able to brighten your day.

  1. Pseudodionysius

    I don’t disagree with your assessment at all Claire. All I can do now is offer my prayers.

  2. iWc

    Sorry, Claire. You say there are no “good” guys to support in the region.

    Israel is a clear Good Guy choice. It is the ally America is ashamed of, the ally whom America should thank for holding the front against radical Islam.

    For my part, I want Assad gone. True, the alternative would likely be chaotic and profoundly illiberal – but that chaos would, at least for a time, be focused inward. If a country is going to be evil, I much prefer chaotic evil to organized and competent evil.

    And I live with the entirely indefensible hope that, with open access to information, people will gravitate, in fits and starts, toward a tolerant society.

  3. Chris Johnson

    Thank you for the digest, for now.  There is no way I can get to all of the posted interview until much later tonight/tomorrow morning.

  4. Trace

    A grim but excellent description. Thank you and thanks to Ricochet for enticing you to share your contacts, expertise, and sharp prose.

  5. Crow

    Claire: I guess I’ll be the one with the bloody shirt.

    I don’t want to be saved the time.

    I want to understand the problem in all its complexity.

    And I’m ready to stand for what’s right, despite it’s difficulty.

  6. Viator

    Let Syria become a suzerainty of Turkey.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uReZG1KgOB4

  7. jhimmi

    All I hear from the left is how our foreign policy in the middle east is to blame for pretty much all of world’s ills – every one of our past interventionist adventures, no matter how blameworthy, was surely thought to be the “least bad choice” by some brain trust advising the administration du jour.

    Some faction will hate us for intervening, another for not intervening, and all the bystanders will hate us either way. Let the Alawite, Druze and Christian come to the U.S., they will appreciate being here more than most. We’ll send them Michael Moore and Sean Penn.

  8. Erik Larsen

     A lot of the posts on Ricochet consist of dicing the headlines found elsewhere – but this is true reporting, without which we would all be the poorer.  Thanks Claire!

  9. flownover

    Why is there such a thriving “Evil dictator ” industry in these Middle Eastern, mostly Muslim countries ? What recipe have they perfected to create such monsters ?

    Is this an idiosyncracy unique to a region ? Or is the quality of current history better at transmitting the events that define these types ?

  10. Claire Berlinski
    C
    HVTs: squash them like maggots.  

    I won’t delete this, but I will call attention to your use of the word “maggots” and ask you, in turn, if you can find a single significant historical instance of something good ensuing from a description of human beings as “maggots.” Or, for that matter, the description of a large category of human beings as  ”parasites,” “vermin,” or “germs.” 

  11. Charles Mark

    If Israel rates 6th out of 8 in hatred it’s doing pretty well by global standards.Isn’t it usually 1 or 2, (US being the other).Iran wouldn’t make it to any such list where I come from.

  12. genferei

    Claire – thank you. Thank you for saying this clearly, unequivocally and (dare I say it) entertainingly.

  13. Antipodius

    That’s an excellent post. So it’s bloody Bedlam then. Ms. Berlinksi, telling the truth about the situation (albeit a depressing truth) is much better than the sugar coated alternative.

    flownover: Why is there such a thriving “Evil dictator ” industry in these Middle Eastern, mostly Muslim countries ? What recipe have they perfected to create such monsters ?

    Is this an idiosyncracy unique to a region ? Or is the quality of current history better at transmitting the events that define these types ? · 14 minutes ago

    Flownover..let me save you time with the arabs. Read this book,and then this one, it will answer your questions in depth about why the region is a perpetual cauldron of bloodshed, strife, intrigue and hardship.

    My depressing realisation is that what we have in the west is extremely rare, not just on this planet today (where the majority of governments are oppressive in some way), but rare also in human history. We are a blip in time and in space on the human condition, and we don’t appreciate it, or work hard enough to protect it.

  14. Retail Lawyer

     Claire,  Thank you so much!  I’m afraid I’m a bit too upset to offer more right now.

  15. Glenn the Iconoclast

    Your best post ever, I think.

  16. Duane Oyen

    Since I am an evil PNAS Neocon who thinks that we should be as patient and willing to spend 15 years rooting out poison as the French were to work through Algeria, I

    1) Agree with Claire, and

    2) Will shut up so I don’t cause too much trouble with the Ron Paul (R- Ostrichville) contingent.

  17. Glenn the Iconoclast
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

    HVTs: squash them like maggots.  

    I won’t delete this, but I will call attention to your use of the word “maggots” and ask you, in turn, if you can find a single significant historical instance of something good ensuing from a description of human beings as “maggots.” 

    The collapse of the Soviet Empire?

    I’m not claiming any direct relationship, and certainly no personal heroism, but we were called maggots by the drill instructors who trained us for war (and against whom we breathed under-voiced ‘ate-up lifer maggot’ imprecations).

    {Don’t bother to point out that in this case it was the relatively good guys who garnered the appellation; I’m merely offering the single example for which you asked.)

  18. Valiuth

    Truly Ms. Berlinski in a more fair and just world your interview with Mr. Tanir would be the front page foreign news story for all major networks and news papers…I don’t recall the last time I saw Syria on the front pages. Fine work to the both of you especially to Mr. Tanir. 

  19. Claire Berlinski
    C
    Glenn the Iconoclast

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

    HVTs: squash them like maggots.  

    I won’t delete this, but I will call attention to your use of the word “maggots” and ask you, in turn, if you can find a single significant historical instance of something good ensuing from a description of human beings as “maggots.” 
    The collapse of the Soviet Empire?

    I’m not claiming any direct relationship, and certainly no personal heroism, but we were called maggots by the drill instructors who trained us for war (and against whom we breathed under-voiced ‘ate-up lifer maggot’ imprecations).

    {Don’t bother to point out that in this case it was the relatively good guys who garnered the appellation; I’m merely offering the single example for which you asked.) · 13 minutes ago

    Would you agree that there’s probably an important difference between the Full-Metal-Jacket use of these words (so to speak) and these words when they enter popular political discourse? 

  20. Percival

    They hate us.  If we do anything, they’ll still hate us, but maybe a little less, because we owe them for all the things that we’ve done in the entire region in the past.  If we don’t do anything, they’ll hate us until Assad’s goons kill them.  Assad’s goons hate us too, so the hate pretty much stays the same unless we “do something.”  Something that is both effective and visible, I assume, since if it is ineffective, they’ll hate us, and if it is sufficiently covert, they’ll figure we had nothing to do with it, which means they’ll hate us.

    Nuts. Selecting between the evil and the slightly-less-evil is difficult when one has no reason to assume that the slightly-less-evil is only slightly-less-evil because it doesn’t have the power to be any more evil than it is already.  All we have to go on there is hope.

    And people die while we sit and do nothing.

    I’d say go with Claire’s plan.  The ICC will probably bollix it up by indicting Assad, but at least it’s something.