Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Until a War is Won or Lost, It Isn't Too Late to Change the Outcome

President Obama may be actually ready to try to arm the more acceptable rebels in Syria. Conservatives shouldn't begin the chorus of "it's too late."

Unless this is another false start, because in the past it has seemed like we were about to arm rebels but nothing seemed to happen, we might finally be engaging Assad:

President Barack Obama, under pressure from some lawmakers to provide more help to Syria's opposition, asked the U.S. Congress on Thursday to approve $500 million to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels seeking to oust President Bashar al-Assad.

It was the administration's most tangible move yet to help beleaguered Assad opponents who have been frustrated at a lack of U.S. assistance after Obama stepped back from launching air strikes on Syria nearly a year ago.

Good. They need the help since not only has Assad revived a bit, but the jihadis who flocked to Syria and gained local recruits, too, have the momentum and prestige to threaten the rebels we'd prefer to thrive:

The Syrian rebels that the U.S. now wants to support are in poor shape, on the retreat from the radical al-Qaida breakaway group that has swept over large parts of Iraq and Syria, with some rebels giving up the fight. It is not clear whether the new U.S. promise to arm them will make a difference.

Some, more hard-line Syrian fighters are bending to the winds and joining the radicals.

Of course we can make a difference.

When the Taliban had the Northern Alliance on the ropes in northeast Afghanistan, was it too late for our special ops and air power to turn the tide? No. We actually blitzed through the Taliban and their al Qaeda bully boy allies.

Was it too late to defeat the Syrian and Iranian invasion of Iraq after the spring 2006 Samarra mosque bombing that triggered increasing sectarian violence? No. Via the Surge and the Awakening, we won on the battlefield when those against the war said we were doomed.

Was it too late for Assad to recover when it looked like he was doomed? Obviously not, although Assad has a way to go before calling mission accomplished. His Iranian and Russian allies obviously didn't think so. And here we are 160,000 dead later.

But when the protests got violent enough for me to call it a civil war, I saw how Assad could survive the war and called for us to aid the rebellion while Assad was weak. It was folly to think we could work with him, and a mistake to think Assad was secure in his palace, which I wrote on the eve of the first "day of rage" protests.

And it was folly to assume Assad was doomed and all that was needed was a presidential declaration that it was time for Assad to go.

If we aid the moderate rebels significantly and openly, while fighting ISIL (ISIS) in Iraq, Syrian fighters will again bend to the winds and join the newest strong horse.

And Syrian troops who thought there might be a light at the end of the tunnel might find their morale can't handle a whole new war yet again, after the beating they've endured so far in the war.

Unless this is all just some stupid attempt to pressure Assad rather than defeat him. We've had that delusion before, too, as I noted here.

As an aside, I said in that post that I expected somebody to do something dramatic to try to break the stalemate. I did not anticipate the ISIL offensive into Iraq. But it surely counts as something dramatic. But that's the problem with enemies who can still fight. They do unexpected things trying to win. Go figure.

Assad has not won his war. ISIL has not emerged victorious. So it is not too late to affect the outcome and win this fight just because we have refrained from influencing the fight decisively in the hope that it would work out well on its own.