Another day of violence in Syria has come and gone, with opposition figures hyping gaudy but unconfirmed death tolls and Western hawks pressing for intervention against the Assad regime.
Violence is undoubtedly on the rise in Syria, but the actual story on the ground is almost impossible to divine, with the opposition telling tales of wholesale slaughter of civilians and Syrian state media claiming regular terrorist attacks, and the battles between the two getting almost no press in favor of stories that will play better in speeches at the UN.
In many ways, the truth on the ground is not only shrouded in mystery but is very much beside the point, and an incipient civil war between the Turkey-backed FSA and the Assad regime is really neither here nor there for policymakers. The decision to intervene has already been made, and whatever stories rhetorically necessary to transform the local dictator into some reasonable facsimile of Hitler or Stalin will be found.
The formula is, despite some claims to the contrary from hawks, very much a redux of Libya. Indeed, those who haven’t quite come to concede what a train wreck the Libya intervention proved to be are still unapologetically citing it as an example to be applied to Syria.
While just a few days ago everyone was insisting the military option was very much “off the table,” the Pentagon is hard at work preparing for the war many see as inevitable. Turkey, the NATO member nation most eager to send ground troops, has already rejected sanctions as “pointless” while condemning Russia for backing Assad.
The extent to which Syria is “not Libya” is that Libya has already happened and does not seem so good for the hawks in retrospect. Russia and China went from being skeptical on Libya to appalled at how quickly the mission morphed to full regime change, and are determined not to see a repeat in Syria. This has made selling the war harder for hawks, but has not changed the basic strategy.
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