In my view, Syria is a traditional tyrant state that is a problem, but a more narrow problem that can be deferred until more deadly threats are defeated. If talking to Syria gets them to halt their undeclared war on Iraq and our troops in Iraq without giving Syria anything other than time (and which doesn't involve betraying Lebanon or Iraq) during which we aren't targetting them, why not make the deal?
Besides, attacking Syria dissipates our strength. Iran is the power behind Syria so if we knock out Syria we merely knock a weapon out of the hands of Iran. Iran remains. If we take down Iran, the Syrian "weapon" drops to the floor without much effort on our part.
But what I oppose about talking is the idea that we are losing in Iraq and need to get Syria to cover our retreat.
And I oppose the readiness of those advocating talks on such terms to abandon democracy in Iraq and Lebanon as the price of disguising our retreat--for a little while--from Iraq:
Overall, political dialogue with Washington would be good for Syria, said Aymen Abdel Nour, a political analyst linked to the reform wing of the ruling Baath party in Damascus.
But he also warned it would come at a high price: Damascus would certainly demand that Washington help Assad regain the Golan Heights from Israel, stop efforts to isolate his regime and also put an end to attempts to implicate Syria in Hariri's death.
"Syria is talking about a package — you either take or leave it," Abdel Nour said. He acknowledged, however, that this "might be difficult for the Bush administration to swallow."
As Victor Hanson notes, first of all we aren't losing in Iraq, so in regard to talking to Iran and Syria:
In general, we should neither seek to negotiate nor threaten either regime, but instead very quietly press ahead with winning in Iraq, and galvanizing allies to prepare sanctions against both—while preparing for the worst.
So while talking isn't always bad, if we go in to these particular talks on the assumption that the talks are about our defeat, how can any good come from them?
But is Syria even in as strong a position as so many assume? Strategypage writes that alliance with Iran once made sense but that bond may be fraying:
But Syria had other problems. The country was run by a Shia minority dictatorship. Most Syrians are Sunni Arab, but attempts by them to take control of the country have been brutally put down by a very efficient secret police force. But there's also a lot of give and take, and for the past three years, Syria has let Sunni Arab extremists to freely pass through Syria, on their way to get killed in Iraq. Several hundred thousand Iraqi Sunni Arabs, most of them former Saddam supporters, have taken refuge in Syria. The alliance with Iran is getting ragged, with Syria now looking at the prospect of Hizbollah (more radical Shia) controlled Lebanon to the west, and Shia run Iraq to the east. Syria's Sunni [sic: Shia] Arab minority doesn't want to end up like Iraq's Sunni Arabs. Friendly gestures must be made, Sunni Arab terrorists must be arrested or killed. Something must be done, quickly, before everything changes.
If Syria is as weak as this says and worried about succeeding in destabilizing Iraq and turning over Lebanon to Iran, which seems all too obvious despite the chest-thumping that comes out of Damascus that our Left and Realists believe all too readily, talking to Syria could be good. In this case, Syria doesn't like being Iran's weapon of choice and wants to pry Tehran's grip from Syria. Syria could be riding a Persian tiger with no idea how to get off.
But for talks to benefit us, we'd need to have the confidence to make demands and not listen to their demands. We'd need to go into the talks with the goal of covering Syria's retreat from Iraq and their Iranian alliance with enough window dressing to cover Syria--for a while.
I am still constantly amazed at how readily some would revive our nearly dead enemies in order to hand them our sword in surrender.
Talk to Syria if we must. But talk with the confidence that our strength and their weakness should give us. And keep on fighting in Iraq and pushing the Iraqis to take over. If talks fail, I'll settle for simply winning.