In the final debate it will be tempting for Mitt Romney to pick up the narrative being peddled by Syria interventionists that we drove the Free Syrian Army into the arms of Al Qaeda and its Jihadist affiliates by not showering them with heavy weapons.
David Ignatius at the Washington Post has a high profile article pushing the story that the FSA is only aligning with the Jihadists because America hasn’t come through for them. The reality is that the FSA was aligned with Jihadists all along, the difference is that it is no longer bothering to hide it.
Here’s a little moment from Ignatius’ story of the Free Syrian Army
Akidi looks like a military man, barrel-chested and confident, and he’s the sort of officer who Washington hopes might build a solid fighting force. If the United States can help him get modern antiaircraft and antitank weapons, “I will keep them away from extremist groups,” he promises. He hopes America can provide training, too — even a two-week basic course that could help create a real army.
But unless the United States provides weapons that can tip the balance, Akidi says he needs help from the jihadists who are so eager to fight and die. “I have no problem with extremists if they are fighting the regime. All we care is that the regime falls and the bloodshed stops.”
Is this a deal that looks good to anyone with any common sense?
Akidi has no problem with Jihadists so long as they’re fighting the regime, but he promises to keep the weapons that we give him away from the “extremists”. His only motive for that is getting more weapons from us. But the stronger the Jihadists become, the more leverage Akidi has for extracting better weapons from us to maintain parity with the Jihadists.
This is an old game and we’ve been playing it for what feels like forever.
Weapons are pouring into Syria from Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, but the FSA wants more and better weapons from us. And once we’ve poured in weapons, then what? We’ll have to upgrade our commitment by opening a No Fly Zone and acting as the air force for the Free Syrian Army. And then once we’ve helped them take over Syria, we can watch our consulate in Aleppo burning on the evening news.
There are two outcomes for the Syrian civil war. Either Assad stays in power or the Sunnis drive him out, massacre the Alawites and the remaining Christians and create a Sunni Islamist state.
The options are
A.) A Shiite Alawite state aligned with Iran, Hezbollah and Iraq that massacres Sunnis.
B.) A Sunni state aligned with Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt that massacres Alawites.
Neither A or B result in a more moral outcome or one that suits our interests. We didn’t lose Syria. We never had Syria. The Syrians have Syria and what they want is to kill each other in pursuit of a country run by their family members, their sect and their group. We have no stake in either side winning or losing.
Jihadists from both Sunni and Shiite militias are swarming into Syria, fighting and dying there. The downside is that they are picking up training, weapons and skills. The upside is that they’re using them against each other.
As long as Shiites and Sunnis are shooting at each other, they’re not shooting at us, and while that might be cynical, I would put forward the notion that this may be the true place where our interests lie.
The interventionists warn that the Jihadists will destabilize the region if the war drags on. But if they win quickly, then they will certainly destabilize the region.
The Jihadists won when we pressured Mubarak and Ben Ali to step down. They won when we intervened in Libya to avoid regional instability, and spread out into Mali. We’ve tried stopping them by intervening. Now let’s find out if Assad can do a better job of stopping Sunni Jihadists then our democratization and regime change efforts can. To those who doubt that, let’s take a little trip back to Hama in 1982 when Assad’s father was faced with a Sunni Islamist uprising.
The Hama massacre occurred in February 1982, when the Syrian Arab Army and the Defense Companies, under the orders of the country’s president, Hafez al-Assad, conducted a scorched earth operation against the town of Hama in order to quell a revolt by the Muslim Brotherhood against the government of Hafez al-Assad.
The Hama massacre, carried out by the Syrian Army supposedly under commanding General Rifaat al-Assad, President Assad’s younger brother, effectively ended the campaign begun in 1976 by Sunni Islamic groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, against Assad’s regime, whose leaders were disproportionately from president Assad’s own Alawite sect
After the Hama uprising, the Islamist insurrection was broken, and the Brotherhood has since operated in exile while other factions surrendered or slipped into hiding.
… or we could help the Free Syrian Army win, watch the Muslim Brotherhood come to power and then hold congressional hearings on who was to blame for the attack on our consulate in Aleppo.