Syria Is at a Tipping Point, and So Is American Foreign Policy

 

aleppo_bombed_hospitalThe cataclysm in Syria — the atrocities, humanitarian crisis and escalating hostilities — could hardly get worse. But it could. US Syria policy — the moral and strategic errors, deferral to Russia and Iran, and enabling of Assad — could hardly get worse. But it could. Fallout in the region — the opportunities for Iran, Russia, ISIS and other jihadists that the war provides — could hardly get worse. But it could.

The ideas that Russia can be a “partner” in fighting ISIS, that Russia and Iran can play a “constructive role” in the region, and that Syrians can “coexist” with a regime that causes such horrors and devastation are fantasies, already proven wrong. Perpetuating policies based on such delusions would be to knowingly steer American foreign policy even further off course.

From the beginning, the Obama administration indulged dictators, offering to “normalize” relations with the worst of them. Thus, even though Syria was a state sponsor of terror that had backed a brutal puppet government in Lebanon, and caused severe setbacks for American troops by arming and training Iraqi insurgents, the Obama administration reached out. They went so far as to suggest brutal Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad was a “reformer” and to recommend him as “intermediary” in the Middle East peace process.

President Obama and his foreign policy team were then idle and mute as Assad unleashed atrocities in response to an initially peaceful pro-democracy rebellion, and as war in Syria, and the tragic human toll, escalated out of control. In response to the Assad regime’s slaughter, systematized torture, and use of heavy artillery, barrel bombs and chemical weapons on civilians, the United States: described the conflict in morally equivalent terms of “violence” between two sides; deferred to the UN Security Council, wherein it knew Russia would veto any meaningful action; obstructed or diluted every substantive Congressional proposal; rejected pleas for a humanitarian corridor and a stronger response; defined-down “red lines” and backed away from Obama’s one-time assertion that “Assad must go.”

Aggressors and terrorists capitalized on the vacuum created by America’s moral and strategic inertia. Russia fared particularly well. John Kerry held repeated “talks” with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, which resulted in deferral to Russian “peace plans” that bought Assad time, often just when time was running out. This September, the Obama administration astoundingly agreed to “cooperate militarily” with Russia “against ISIS” even though Russia and Syria routinely spared ISIS while bombarding rebels and civilians. Although the deal quickly collapsed, in November, Obama ordered the Pentagon to “find and kill” leaders of Nusra, the militant group Putin insisted the United States target; one the Free Syria Army had sided with after it purportedly separated from Al Qaeda. Shortly thereafter, more “discussions” between Kerry and Lavrov ensued.

The stage was thereby set for the final genocidal assault by Russia, Syria, Iran and their proxies upon Aleppo. Yet, Russian propaganda still convinces some of us that Russia, and perhaps even Syria, can be “partners” in the war on terror. When we side with them, we hand anti-American jihadists their own propaganda, and forget that the Assad regime has long supported terror. We’ve made deals with the devils for too long.


Ricochet welcomes new contributor Dr. Anne Pierce, author of A Perilous Path: The Misguided Foreign Policy of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. You can read her full bio here.

Published in Foreign Policy
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Members have made 25 comments.

  1. Profile photo of cdor Member

    Well that was certainly a strong case for NOT partnering with Russia (as some think Trump is inclined to do). I have to say that Putin appears to me to be a scumbag of the first order. However, understanding Putin and his motivations is certainly not in my wheel house. I was hoping that there might be some strategic alliance that could be created to work in both the interests of Russia and the USA. Not so says Dr. Pierce/Smith? Sometimes things are just as they appear.

    • #1
    • December 20, 2016 at 1:09 pm
  2. Profile photo of Gumby Mark Member

    OK, I get what went wrong. But what is the suggested policy? Does the author believe that destruction of Assad and ISIS are both of equal priority? How does one accomplish that? Or is one higher priority than the other? How does one accomplish that? What allies would we need to accomplish either objective? What would we have to compromise on to achieve those alliances? What happens afterwards with Iran and Russia? What are the likely successors to Assad and ISIS (there is always another Islamist terror group waiting in the wings)?

    Frustration is not a policy.

    • #2
    • December 20, 2016 at 1:19 pm
  3. Profile photo of DocJay Member

    Build a wall around the entire Middle East. No one in or out and that includes our soldiers.

    • #3
    • December 20, 2016 at 1:49 pm
  4. Profile photo of Damocles Member

    I’m a bit vague on what it is you propose we do. could you clarify that for us?

    • #4
    • December 20, 2016 at 2:03 pm
  5. Profile photo of fidelio102 Coolidge

    As @cdor and @mark point out, the problem is clearly stated, but the solution remains elusive, probably because there is not one Syrian problem but eight :

    1.  The rivalry between Sunni and Shia Muslims ;
    2.  On a local level, this is translated into a dispute between Alawites (President Assad’s group) who dominate the government but represent only about 11% of the population.
    3. The desire of Iran, the most powerful Shia country in the region, to ensure Shia dominance in Iraq and Syria.
    4.  The existence of several extremist groups (such as ISIS) forming part of the opposition to President Assad’s regime.
    5.  The interference of Russia for reasons I will not try to explain here.
    6. The humanitarian catastrophe caused by the civil war.
    7. The inability of US and European leaders to develop any policy whatsoever.
    8. The fact that the whole artificial construct of what we call the Middle East (the lines drawn in the sand by Messrs Sykes and Picot in 1916) and which supplanted the Ottoman Empire, in which all Shias, Sunnis, Kurds and Christians lived more or less in harmony, is now collapsing.

    These issues need to be treated separately.

    • #5
    • December 20, 2016 at 2:10 pm
  6. Profile photo of livingthehighlife Inactive

    Mark: Frustration is not a policy.

    But the frustration is understandable when there are no good policy options.

    • #6
    • December 20, 2016 at 2:27 pm
  7. Profile photo of Front Seat Cat Member

    Hi Ann – welcome! I look forward to you sorting things out for us especially with the new incoming administration. This country has been a mess for so so long and went from bad to worse under O – resulting in all the refugees now on foreign soil. At least Bush did not side with dictators – Deeply sad. I think Russia’s interest has always been to get a foothold into Middle East power and oil by whatever means necessary. No one is talking about all the war ship fleets that Russia just transported to the area – they have big plans. This is very unstable.

    When I recently searched Assad and read his background, I was very surprised to see so many “parties” throughout Europe who have given him awards – he did not want the job, was an ophthalmologist. His country lies in ruins. I always secretly thought Saddam moved his WMD’s to Syria. What is the answer and why is it so complicated? O is handing the next president a mess in more ways than one.

    • #7
    • December 20, 2016 at 2:53 pm
  8. Profile photo of Xennady Inactive

    A key problem with this sort of analysis is that paltry few Americans give a rat’s anus about Syria and almost no one wants to send their children or themselves over there to save people who hate us.

    If the Syrian intervention so fervently desired by some folks had a shot it would have been when Barry had his red line violated. I remember seeing stories that the GOP house leadership had set about rounding up the votes to authorize war, and I figured we’d quickly be at it.

    Then nothing. I read later that calls to Congress had been 1000-1 against intervention. That may or may not have been true, but it certainly explains why we haven’t gone to war- the American people just aren’t willing to support it.

    And neither am I.

    The internal affairs of Syria are no concern of ours.

    Period.

    • #8
    • December 20, 2016 at 4:24 pm
  9. Profile photo of Knotwise the Poet Member

    DocJay:Build a wall around the entire Middle East. No one in or out and that includes our soldiers.

    *Except for Israel.

    • #9
    • December 20, 2016 at 4:26 pm
  10. Profile photo of DocJay Member

    Knotwise the Poet:

    DocJay:Build a wall around the entire Middle East. No one in or out and that includes our soldiers.

    *Except for Israel.

    I happen to be a fan of that country, so OK.

    • #10
    • December 20, 2016 at 5:07 pm
  11. Profile photo of Quake Voter Thatcher

    Two questions.

    First, how are we at a “tipping point”, strictly speaking. The tipping point involves small things which can make big differences (I think that’s the subtitle of the book). What small moves can we make within the Chinese boxes of political, cultural and intellectual barbarity in the Muslim Middle East which don’t involve time travel? Honestly, I don’t hear anyone proposing anything of any practical merit; just hand-wringing and fingerpointing. During the primaries Rubio always spoke with more fluency, concept command and name dropping dexterity than Trump. He just never said anything.

    Second, what “genocide” is being committed in Aleppo? Is a race of people being targeted for extermination or is Aleppo just another gruesome episode in the never-ending Sunni-Shia bloodletting which has defined Islam since Mohammed’s death?

    • #11
    • December 20, 2016 at 6:00 pm
  12. Profile photo of James Of England Moderator

    Quake Voter:Two questions.

    First, how are we at a “tipping point”, strictly speaking. The tipping point involves small things which can make big differences (I think that’s the subtitle of the book). What small moves can we make within the Chinese boxes of political, cultural and intellectual barbarity in the Muslim Middle East which don’t involve time travel? Honestly, I don’t hear anyone proposing anything of any practical merit; just hand-wringing and fingerpointing. During the primaries Rubio always spoke with more fluency, concept command and name dropping dexterity than Trump. He just never said anything.

    There wasn’t all that much intervention in Libya, but it was enough. Libya had difficulties after that, including an ISIS presence, and is still struggling to have the different democratically elected factions work together, but compared to Syria, it’s a paradise. Less could be done in Syria and still have the Northern and Southern fronts protected; before Putin intervened the moderates were winning, and ISIS will be out of Raqqa in a few months anyway, so the opposition will be facing only a single opponent.

    It’s certainly true that for genuinely small amounts of effort being critical, we’d have had to have acted earlier.

    Second, what “genocide” is being committed in Aleppo? Is a race of people being targeted for extermination or

    Sunni Arabs. “Mexicans aren’t a race, so abuse of Mexicans isn’t racist”, or the same as applied to other groups might seem like a linguistic win, but genocide as defined by the Genocide Convention doesn’t require it to be a race in that sense. Also, an attempt at partial destruction is enough.

    is Aleppo just another gruesome episode in the never-ending Sunni-Shia bloodletting which has defined Islam since Mohammed’s death?

    The Sunni-Shia split isn’t a predictive indicator of conflict in the thousand years before the last century began. Iraq largely converted from Sunni to Shia in the 19th century without all that much controversy. There were fights at the beginning, and fights in Lebanon, then in Iran. It’s not like Catholic/ Protestant issues, but that’s sadly the only lens through which all too many scholars understand any religious disagreement.

    • #12
    • December 20, 2016 at 10:54 pm
  13. Profile photo of James Of England Moderator

    fidelio102:As @cdor and @mark point out, the problem is clearly stated, but the solution remains elusive, probably because there is not one Syrian problem but eight :

    1. The humanitarian catastrophe caused by the civil war.

    This makes it sound like the humanitarian catastrophe is a bilateral thing, and AQ has done some pretty awful things. Not on the same scale as Assad, though. It’s like saying that there were many civilians murdered on the Western Front of the Second World War as a result of the conflict.

    1. The fact that the whole artificial construct of what we call the Middle East (the lines drawn in the sand by Messrs Sykes and Picot in 1916) and which supplanted the Ottoman Empire, in which all Shias, Sunnis, Kurds and Christians lived more or less in harmony, is now collapsing.

    I don’t know how much you know about the Armenian Genocide, but no, the Ottomans were not ruling peacefully. Post Ottoman bloodshed is dwarfed by Ottoman atrocity (well, it combines to being less than Ottoman bloodshed; until Assad it was dwarfed by it, now it’s just smaller).

    Sykes Picot didn’t determine many of the modern borders and those that it did determine haven’t been problematic. The problem wasn’t that the borders were poorly drawn . Some people think that they should have been more segregationist, creating little ethnic enclaves across the region, some people that they should have been less segregated, but there’s no clear improvement available and hasn’t been any popular move to redraw the borders.

    The problem wasn’t that the West was too involved, but that it wasn’t involved enough. The Soviets supported their allies better than we supported ours, so many governments of the Middle East became populated by the friends of tyrants. We couldn’t apply a lot of pressure to the others through the Cold War thanks to the availability of a competitive alternative bidder for their affections. Under Bush, we did a lot better, less well under Obama.

    • #13
    • December 20, 2016 at 11:10 pm
  14. Profile photo of James Of England Moderator

    Mark:OK, I get what went wrong. But what is the suggested policy? Does the author believe that destruction of Assad and ISIS are both of equal priority?

    They’re different, like China and Russia as threats. ISIS is a security threat. Assad has created a wave of refugees and bloodshed that has created a wide range of mostly non-security related issues outside Syria. Given the degree to which economic growth supports life, the latter is probably killing more outside Syria than the former (also, obviously, vastly more in Syria).

    How does one accomplish that?

    ISIS is relatively easy to take down as an entity operating as a government in Syria. Raqqa should be liberated reasonably soon (a timeline in terms of months). The rest should fall more easily; without the myth of the state and of inevitable victory, ISIS is a lot less powerful. It’ll still be big in the way that AQ was, as a distributed terrorist network, but not in the form it currently has.

    Or is one higher priority than the other?

    That’s subjective, but for the most part one doesn’t need to prioritise one or the other. Defeating either is extremely helpful for defeating the other.

    How does one accomplish that?

    We were seeing both being gradually defeated before Putin’s intervention a couple of years ago. Since then the US has increased efforts against ISIS. The US, moderates (the Syrian Democratic Council and the National Coalition), some other Western forces, and maybe Turkey seem likely to have this resolved. So far as I know, Trump doesn’t seem likely to make all that much of a change to policy here. He’s certainly promised to hit ISIS hard, and this is the place to do that.

    What allies would we need to accomplish either objective?

    The list is harder to identify in the case of the Russians/ Assad. We need to persuade them to cease engaging in genocide, and that’s probably something that needs a more robust threat of force than we’ve been presenting so far if it’s done on a moral basis. Putin and Assad have behaved sufficiently poorly that we might not need to go to too much effort to get Europe to pull together to act. Alternatively, Trump might bribe Putin to pull back. Assad’s bloodshed isn’t enough to constitute a final solution, but it’s enough for a medium term solution if he was willing to accept a substantial loss of territory that did not include a loss of the specific territories that Russia prioritises.

    What would we have to compromise on to achieve those alliances? What happens afterwards with Iran and Russia?

    Iran and Russia are likely to have done fantastically well out of this almost no matter how things shake out. They’ve shown that it is still possible to profit from genocide, and that they’re effective patrons who will go to the mat for those willing to be their pawns. In both cases, Syria is only the most important front in the struggles against our chief and second worst geo-political foes.

    What are the likely successors to Assad and ISIS (there is always another Islamist terror group waiting in the wings)?

    Sometimes terrorist groups are defeated and vanish. Anarchism in the US, for instance. The IRA are mostly gone. We haven’t had commie bombs in the US for a bit. If you want to limit it to Muslims, the Malayan National Liberation Army is one of the better case studies. The MILF is probably the best known recent example. Most Muslim terrorist groups haven’t died because they’ve been about Israel and Israel’s an issue that’s still not resolved, or because they’ve been the terrorist arms of dictators who have believed that they could use terrorism to their benefit. The Taliban and Indo-Pakistan issues are different, but each of the conflicts and reasons for groups to exist are specific to their own contexts. A century back there wasn’t all that much in the way of Muslim terrorism, and it doesn’t seem obvious to me that there will be all that much in a few decades. Israel is more secure than it used to be, with ever fewer living people who can claim to have been cleared in ’48. If we see regime change in Iran, we’ll no longer have a serious state sponsor of terrorism, the chief reason for their continued success in the 20th/ early 21st centuries.

    The opposition to Assad includes mostly leftists (including some Christians) and Islamists, but there are plenty of decent Islamist governments out there. Tunisia’s Islamist government wasn’t bad, for instance (most notably, in peacefully transferring power to secularists after losing the 2014 election). In the parts of Iraq that weren’t invaded by ISIS, there hasn’t been a replacement to AQ since they were defeated. My guess is that post Assad Syria, or parts of Syria, will be somewhat similar; not a great government (way more corrupt and leftist than would be ideal), but not a terrible government and not one that the rest of the world needs to worry about much. Worst case scenario, it’d be like Libya today; all kinds of governance failure, but not something the world needs to worry about much.

     Frustration is not a policy.

    That’s true.

    • #14
    • December 20, 2016 at 11:52 pm
  15. Profile photo of fidelio102 Coolidge

    James Of England:I don’t know how much you know about the Armenian Genocide, but no, the Ottomans were not ruling peacefully. Post Ottoman bloodshed is dwarfed by Ottoman atrocity (well, it combines to being less than Ottoman bloodshed; until Assad it was dwarfed by it, now it’s just smaller).

    Sykes Picot didn’t determine many of the modern borders and those that it did determine haven’t been problematic. The problem wasn’t that the borders were poorly drawn . Some people think that they should have been more segregationist, creating little ethnic enclaves across the region, some people that they should have been less segregated, but there’s no clear improvement available and hasn’t been any popular move to redraw the borders.

    I didn’t mean to appear as an apologist for the Ottoman regime. The point I was trying to put across was that under Ottoman rule the Christians, Kurds and various Muslims lived together in relative harmony.

    Syria itself has been unstable almost continuously since the French left in 1946 and has been held together only by the strong-arm government of the Assad dynasty, in power since 1970.

    • #15
    • December 21, 2016 at 6:04 am
  16. Profile photo of Gumby Mark Member

    James Of England:

    Mark:OK, I get what went wrong. But what is the suggested policy? Does the author believe that destruction of Assad and ISIS are both of equal priority?

    They’re different, like China and Russia as threats. ISIS is a security threat. Assad has created a wave of refugees and bloodshed that has created a wide range of mostly non-security related issues outside Syria.

    I appreciate your thoughtful response to my questions. Some further comments and questions:

    So far as I know, Trump doesn’t seem likely to make all that much of a change to policy here. He’s certainly promised to hit ISIS hard, and this is the place to do that.

    I was struck during the campaign, that although Trump expressed his policy in more forceful language, he and Hillary basically had the same approach to ISIS.

    Alternatively, Trump might bribe Putin to pull back.

    Thoughts on what we would have to offer to get Putin to pull back?

    My guess is that post Assad Syria, or parts of Syria, will be somewhat similar; not a great government (way more corrupt and leftist than would be ideal), but not a terrible government and not one that the rest of the world needs to worry about much.

    If Assad were to prevail and remain, would he be someone the world would need to worry about much?

    • #16
    • December 21, 2016 at 9:42 am
  17. Profile photo of Paul A. Rahe Contributor

    Anne, the question I have is whether, at this stage, the game is up. Assad and his allies have concentrated their attacks on the Sunni forces loosely allied with us, figuring that, if they eliminate those forces while Obama is still in power and doing nothing, we will not rally to the support of ISIS. Have they been sufficiently successful that we no longer have anyone, apart perhaps from the Kurds, to support?

    There is a second question that needs to be addressed — whether we still have a strategic interest in the region justifying anything more than an attempt to quarantine the conflict. Fracking has changed our strategic calculations. The region was once worth a commitment of treasure and manpower. To what degree is that still true?

    • #17
    • December 21, 2016 at 6:05 pm
  18. Profile photo of Damocles Member

    Dropping in an article, and not showing up to defend it…

    typical neocon!

    • #18
    • December 21, 2016 at 7:51 pm
  19. Profile photo of James Of England Moderator

    fidelio102:

    James Of England:I don’t know how much you know about the Armenian Genocide, but no, the Ottomans were not ruling peacefully. Post Ottoman bloodshed is dwarfed by Ottoman atrocity (well, it combines to being less than Ottoman bloodshed; until Assad it was dwarfed by it, now it’s just smaller).

    Sykes Picot didn’t determine many of the modern borders and those that it did determine haven’t been problematic. The problem wasn’t that the borders were poorly drawn . Some people think that they should have been more segregationist, creating little ethnic enclaves across the region, some people that they should have been less segregated, but there’s no clear improvement available and hasn’t been any popular move to redraw the borders.

    I didn’t mean to appear as an apologist for the Ottoman regime. The point I was trying to put across was that under Ottoman rule the Christians, Kurds and various Muslims lived together in relative harmony.

    Do you not believe that the Armenian Genocide is a problem for the claim that the victims and the perpetrators of the genocide were living together in relative harmony? Relative to German Jews and their neighbours in the 1940s, and to Hutus and Tutsis in the 1990s, perhaps, but relative to very few other groups. Certainly not relative to the contemporary Middle East.

    Syria itself has been unstable almost continuously since the French left in 1946 and has been held together only by the strong-arm government of the Assad dynasty, in power since 1970.

    Ruling through atrocity is only superficially stable. It’s the opposite of the democracy J curve, in which the transition to democracy is unstable but the long term is sound. Hafez governed on Soviet patronage (kind of like Cuba). After that stopped, their days were numbered. The number was reasonably large, but the initial Free Syrian Army decision to mutiny rather than murder civilians was a decision that would eventually be made by someone, and atrocities meant that the Assads weren’t going to be able to easily peacefully transition to the succeeding form of government.

    • #19
    • December 22, 2016 at 12:26 am
  20. Profile photo of James Of England Moderator

    Mark:

    James Of England:

    Mark:OK, I get what went wrong. But what is the suggested policy? Does the author believe that destruction of Assad and ISIS are both of equal priority?

    They’re different, like China and Russia as threats. ISIS is a security threat. Assad has created a wave of refugees and bloodshed that has created a wide range of mostly non-security related issues outside Syria.

    I appreciate your thoughtful response to my questions. Some further comments and questions:

    Thank you.

    So far as I know, Trump doesn’t seem likely to make all that much of a change to policy here. He’s certainly promised to hit ISIS hard, and this is the place to do that.

    I was struck during the campaign, that although Trump expressed his policy in more forceful language, he and Hillary basically had the same approach to ISIS.

    Clinton understood that Russia was our enemy in the fight against ISIS rather than an ally, but sure.

    Alternatively, Trump might bribe Putin to pull back.

    Thoughts on what we would have to offer to get Putin to pull back?

    The Russian economy is suffering under the sanctions put in place after their last set of atrocities, in Ukraine. That’s a pretty obvious place to start. In general, if Trump agrees to treat Putin as if he’s helping to bring peace to Syria, I suspect that Putin would be willing to do a lot for Trump. There’s a widespread understanding that we should probably oppose war criminals, but it seems reasonably plausible that Trump could oppose more or less all efforts to provide accountability. Other than the Ambassador to Turkey, the whole lot of them could go more or less unscathed with enough American support.

    My guess is that post Assad Syria, or parts of Syria, will be somewhat similar; not a great government (way more corrupt and leftist than would be ideal), but not a terrible government and not one that the rest of the world needs to worry about much.

    If Assad were to prevail and remain, would he be someone the world would need to worry about much?

    The refugee wave is likely to be a continuing problem.

    The support for the current Iranian government is noteworthy. They derive a considerable portion of their legitimacy from their effective support for Shia Muslims outside their borders, and a major victory, the biggest in the history of the Islamic Republic, would be helpful.

    A similar principle applies, to a lesser extent, for Russia.

    It would be harmful for American credibility in the future, and it’s a problem for the world when American threats cannot induce compliance.

    It would enhance the credibility of those arguing within dictatorial governments that genocide could be a better way forward from the perspective of senior officials than democratisation, which might be a problem in the future.

    With Assad in power the odds of peace in Lebanon and Israel are less than if Syria had a government that America could deal with. Peace there appears to be reasonably significant for the world.

    • #20
    • December 22, 2016 at 12:41 am
  21. Profile photo of oleneo65 Thatcher

    Will Dr. Pierce be participating in the conversation and/or answering of questions raised regarding her post?

    • #21
    • December 22, 2016 at 7:43 am
  22. Profile photo of Unsk Member

    The first thing one needs to know about this conflict is that it is the first time in history that the Shia are equal to or perhaps even stronger than the Sunni’s militarily.

    That changes everything.

    The Shia have been under the boot of the Sunni since the 7th century, and the grievances are a mile long and miles deep. Both think of each other as apostate and as not the true follower of Islam. As a result, at it’s root this conflict is a very nasty civil war which each side dare not lose for fear of murderous reprisals.

    We are in a real fix because the Bush and Obama administrations have let Iran get the bomb and are letting them weaponize their nukes so they can mount them on missiles than can reach all of the Arab world and Europe.

    To add loads of fuel to this raging fire, Russia has backed Iran adding a superpower struggle to this mix.

    As long as Iran has the bomb and is paramount militarily, pursuing just ISIS is absolutely folly, because Iran’s growing power begat ISIS. So, even if we were to wipe out ISIS an even more nasty Sunni force would likely rise in it’s place to counteract Iran.

    To contain this incendiary conflict, we must contain both sides otherwise this conflict is only going to become more a threat to the world. Trump’s closeness to Putin only makes this issue even more problematic.

    • #22
    • December 22, 2016 at 7:54 am
  23. Profile photo of Anne Pierce Contributor
    Anne Pierce Post author

    Thank you so much for these thought-provoking and sometimes challenging comments, which will give me much to consider as I get back to work in the New Year. I am sorry that complicated travels and last-minute Christmas preparations leave me with no time to respond properly now. My quick take: the longer we have gone without pursuing (once) viable humanitarian and strategic proposals, the more narrow, yet complex and perilous, our options. Highly important in such a fraught environment to define our moral and strategic priorities before choosing new policies.

    • #23
    • December 22, 2016 at 8:00 am
  24. Profile photo of fidelio102 Coolidge

    Unsk: To contain this incendiary conflict, we must contain both sides otherwise this conflict is only going to become more a threat to the world.

    In my opinion, the most serious threat in the Middle East is a movement to overthrow the weakening monarchy in Saudi Arabia.

    If the Al-Saud regime were to crumble, Iran might well try to intervene to establish a Shia government in Saudi Arabia (where Shias make up only 10-25% of the population). A Saudi-Iran war would ensue into which the US would inevitably be dragged. This would lead to a direct US-Russian confrontation. There could only be one victor, but the conflagration would be horrific.

    • #24
    • December 22, 2016 at 9:54 am
  25. Profile photo of valis Coolidge

    The best policy is to open up all lands and seas to fracking, make the middle east the backwater it should be and impoverish them as much as possible. And the fence is a barrier where we prevent them from entering the West as much as possible. They offer little more than terror. Why should we accept it?

    Let Russia have their warm water port in Syria and let tyrants reign over people long accustomed to it. If George W Bush has taught us anything, it is that all people do not long for freedom. Some dwell in anachronistic worlds of their choosing where tribe and faith rule over all else.

    Not one Pomeranian grenadier or one US Marine should shed blood for them.

    • #25
    • December 23, 2016 at 2:20 pm