You’re a very naughty boy!
So then, undeniably the red line has been crossed by the Assad regime. At least that’s what Cameron, Haig, oops sorry Freudian slip I meant Hague and Obama are now saying. Well they’re probably correct but it might have been more politic to wait for the UN inspectors report. Granted that will be able to confirm that some sort of chemical weapon has been used but won’t be able to say who used it and yes the delay in granting the inspectors access meant that quite likely any evidence would have been destroyed or tidied up. Even so this is a classic example of the wisdom of talking quietly but carrying a big stick. A couple of days brooding silence wouldn’t have altered any facts on the ground and might have given Russia and China a chance to alter their stance without being seen to be caving in to American pressure.
And what is the plan of action? Well of course we don’t really know but these things tend to be hinted at if not actually leaked. What is being spoken of is a one-off ‘guided missile attack’. Which will achieve what, one must ask. Personally I think it’ll be like poking a wasps nest to warn them not to buzz around the garden. In other words all it will achieve is making matters worse. Does this mean that nothing should be done? Far from it but let’s just think this through, this time, before rushing in. There is no viable ‘government in waiting’ in Syria to give military support to. Possibly eighteen months or two years ago there might have been but that is no longer the case.
Consider this. If action is taken without UN agreement then the UN has been shown to be a worthless institution. I’m no great fan of the UN but it’s the best world forum that we have and before we formally declare it a failed institution and irrelevant perhaps some consideration should be given to what will take its place. I haven’t detected any signs of much thought about that or frankly anything, in the case of Syria. The big idea was to arm the Syrian Free Army because they were all moderates, would-be democrats and all-round nice people. Did that include the Al-Qaeda contingent who make up the bulk of the opposition forces? They’re so nice that the autonomous Kurdish area in Iraq is talking about sending fighters to the almost-autonomous Kurdish area in Syria to help protect them against attacks by Sunni extremists in the Free Syrian army. Those extremists are Syrian Al-Qaeda affiliates and Iraqi Al-Qaeda affiliates and there are about thirty thousand of them all told. If rather than when there is a regime change in Syria then those extremists are the ones who will be the new regime. If it was a Hollywood movie you’d call it Taliban 2, Return of the Turbans. Oh I forgot, the Taliban will be coming back to Afghanistan just as soon as the Americans and the rest of us
turn tail and run make a strategic withdrawal having finally stabilised the Karzai regime and turned Afghanistan into a model democracy. Oh let’s see, Taliban 3, The Turbans Strike Back.
So what to do? Well I hate to say this but there are three options.
1) do nothing except wring our hands in anguish
2)Tell Assad OK you can stay in power but be nice otherwise see option 3
3)Collude with the Russians in dismantling Syria into three, possibly four, entities. An Alawite enclave which would host the Russian Mediterranean fleet, a Sunni entity which would promptly have a civil war, a Kurdish entity and possibly do something for the Druze as well. Oh, don’t worry about the last one because if the UN is sidelined and an extremist Islamist entity is created then Israel will step in and create a safe haven for the Druze. It nearly happened in 1973 but the Druze in Syria didn’t want it so Israeli forces pulled back to the Golan Heights. This time around the Druze might think differently.