When ‘The Mustache’ speaks, people should listen.
I have been making the same points as Mr.Bolton here during the entire uprising in Syria episode. Arming a side you do not have an inkling of who will in the end be running the whole show, is folly. Arming genocidal maniacs is as troublesome as watching a genocidal regime mowing people down, but there is little to be done, and like Bolton admits:
Does any of us doubt that the Europeans (and Obama) those Syrian diplomats back in due course if Assad Prevails?
What to do about Syria?
As hostilities in Syria roll on unabated, the civilian casualties rise because of combat operations in urban areas and execution-style killings. In response, calls for U.S. military intervention of one sort or another to aid the opposition increase, while the Obama administration dithers over whether to continue relying on the United Nations Security Council and former U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan.
But what are the American interests at stake, and what is the best way to protect them? Although it is easy to concentrate on the stomach-churning television images, we should operate on the basis of strategy, not emotion. That does not mean doing nothing. But neither does it mean knee-jerk reactions instead of careful analysis.
Syria’s Assad family–Baath party dictatorship had nothing to recommend it before the current conflict, other than its being the devil we knew. Now, it is increasingly an Iranian satellite under Tehran’s growing regional influence. Syria remains a threat to Israel; has continuing aspirations to control Lebanon while serving as a conduit to supply and support the terrorist group Hezbollah; provides a base of operations for Russian military activity in the Middle East; and is quite possibly the site of ongoing, illicit nuclear-weapons activity by Iran and North Korea, despite Israel’s destruction of a Syrian nuclear reactor in September 2007.
There is one other important consideration. Assad and his father routinely butchered their Sunni political opponents to protect their political base in the Alawi sect, an offshoot of Shia Islam. If the civilians whose bodies we have seen recently on television were the victims of Alawite militias or Syrian government forces, it is, sadly, more of the same. There is little doubt that the Sunni desire for revenge is strong. After years of oppression and brutality, how could it not be? Accordingly, we are blinking at reality if we do not recognize that, following Assad’s ouster, especially if the violence grew, the bloodlust would be high and the risk of large-scale massacres of Alawites all too real. How would we feel if U.S. weapons were used in such massacres? Without a substantial on-the-ground troop presence, we could no more prevent them than we can prevent the current killings of civilians.
Advocates of U.S. intervention argue that, if we are unwilling to supply weapons to the opposition, we can at least declare a no-fly zone along the Turkish border and continue to supply non-lethal assistance. This less visible approach implicitly acknowledges that Arab states determined to prevent Iran from consolidating its hold over Syria are now arming the rebels and will continue to do so. Of course, they will arm factions they believe are congenial to their interests, and not necessarily those congenial to ours, a fact we can do little to change. Indeed, any level of U.S. support, if it turns out to be effective, implies the same potential political and humanitarian problems as does U.S. support that is truly robust. The more effective our aid is, the more likely the opposition is to prevail. The issue is whether we want that to happen when we have so little understanding of, let alone influence over, what a successor regime would be like.