Monday, December 30, 2013

When You Strike an Assad, Kill Him

When we fail to lead, allies won't just be led from behind. They'll lead in the direction of their own interests. And sometimes that might be good if we can't or won't pursue our interests. Like over Syria.

Saudi Arabia is upset with our policies on Syria and Iran. They fear Assad and Iran are strengthened by our diplomacy. It's hard to argue with that assessment.

So Saudi Arabia is looking to France instead of us for support:

"The Saudi monarchy cannot fathom the fact that Assad might survive this crisis and then turn against them. They reject this possibility and are willing to do what they can to make Assad go," said Ali al-Ahmed, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute of Gulf Affairs.

Both countries say they will continue to back the rebels fighting to overthrow Assad, in contrast with the Obama administration's hesitation. Unlike the U.S., the French have resisted suspending non-lethal aid to the rebels and show no signs of changing course.

It's almost like the Saudis understand the concept that you never inflict a small injury on an enemy because all you do is enrage them and let them live to seek revenge.

This is similar to my philosophy that using military power isn't counter-productive when fighting our enemies--ineffective use of military power is counter-productive.

French arms sales are of course part of the support--and reward.

And Iran is also an issue, of course. Both in backing Assad to the hilt and their nuclear programs. Remember, the administration that was going to restore our reputation abroad cut out the Saudis to talk secretly with Iran before going public about the new interim nuclear deal that had no input from Saudi Arabia. That's not partnery, is it? It's like that deep presidential bow to their king was meaningless. Who knew?

So after several years of our dithering, will Saudi Arabia be able to lead us and not just the French? Strategypage writes:

[The] Saudis and other Gulf Arabs believe that the war in Syria is a two-stage process. The first stage is removing the Assads from power, followed by a second war to put down the Islamic terrorist rebels. The West does not go along with this but the Arabs counter by pointing out how the refusal of the West to provide air support, or more active logistics support for the rebels leaves no other choice. The Arabs accept that the Islamic terrorist groups are hostile to the moderate rebels and that is never going to change. The Arabs believe that it is not practical to try and destroy the Islamic terrorist rebels before making a final push against the Assads, especially given Western reluctance to help the rebels in a big way. The Western nations point out that, as democracies, they cannot openly back Islamic terrorist rebels and that’s what air support would end up doing. Meanwhile the more extreme Islamic terrorist rebels (like ISIL, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) are sending death squads after leaders and other key people in moderate rebel groups. The West seems to be coming over to the Arab assessment of the situation and agreeing to make whatever deals are necessary to get the Assads defeated. After that the Islamic terrorists can be dealt with.

This fits with my view since the jihadis gained in strength within rebel ranks. First Assad. Then jihadis. Of course, I've always been focused on getting rid of Assad. Pity our administration wasn't.

The notion that democracies can't use one group of murderous thugs to defeat other murderous thugs is ludicrous. One, we sided with the murderous Soviet Union to beat murderous Nazi Germany and Japan in World War II. Two, we sided with Islamists to beat the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Three, under this administration we effectively sided with Islamists to overthrow Khadaffi. So what's this "we can't" support murdering SOBs against other enemies?

And the notion being floated that accepting an Assad win at 120,000 dead (and counting) is the lesser of two evils is just morally wrong.

It is also--as our president likes to say--a false choice between Assad and jihadis. If we focus on removing Assad the right way, we support non-jihadis to strengthen them over the long haul. Any aid to jihadis is simply spillover from aiding non-jihadis and hurting Assad, rather than a policy of choosing to aid jihadis as an alternative to accepting an Assad victory as a lesser of two evils.

And it should be painfully obvious that trying to find the perfect plan that gets rid of Assad, crushes al Qaeda, and empowers the Damascus Chapter of the League of Women Voters to take power in Syria has led us to the point we are at now when Assad is on offense, jihadis are rising, and the non-jihadis are demoralized and losing ground to Assad and the jihadis.

And our allies are looking at us in horror and seeking alternatives to our friendship.

So focus on step one--getting rid of Assad--without letting the next steps dissuade us from acting at all. And we must not forget that we can't declare mission accomplished when Assad is driven from power.

I hope that Strategypage is right and that we are belatedly coming to the conclusion that Assad must be defeated. Pity we didn't come to that conclusion 120,000 dead ago. But it would be nice if we come to that conclusion before the next 120,000 are planted in the ground.

If not, I hope the Saudis and their new French allies manage to do what we refuse to do. The French do hold the patent on sophisticated, nuanced foreign policy, don't they?

UPDATE: In very related news, Saudi Arabia will spend $3 billion to build up the Lebanese army (to resist Syria, Hezbollah, and Iran):

Saudi Arabia pledged $3 billion to bolster Lebanon's armed forces, in a challenge to the Iranian-allied Hezbollah militia's decadeslong status as Lebanon's main power broker and security force. ...

Lebanon would use the Saudi grant to buy "newer and more modern weapons," from France, said Mr. Sleiman, an independent who has become increasingly critical of Hezbollah.

And the French angle, too, of course.

Although equipment is the least of the Lebanese army's problems. As the article notes, how can the army fight Hezbollah when so many troops are Shia with divided loyalities?