Jaw-jawing: John Kerry on Syria

From The Economist Espresso: Jaw-jawing: John Kerry on Syria


This should be interesting. What seems to be lacking in Syria is any strategy. Even if we could pick apart or alternatively defend an isolationist strategy, we seem to be trapped in one of arbitrarily and weakly supporting a handful of rebels, but not enough to have a material impact. Thus, ours is a policy best summed up as hopeless pusillanimity. Meantime, thousands are being slaughtered, ISIS continues to grow, millions are being displaced, and now the Russians are reenacting a modern-day Cold War. We won’t long be able to pretend that this calamity will stay within the confines of the Syrian borders.

2 thoughts on “Jaw-jawing: John Kerry on Syria

  1. Do you think that the US should be the world’s policeman? What can we do to end the civil war that would not incur trillions of dollars and thousands of lives lost?
    I firmly believe that lessons in Vietnam and Iraq showed we ought not to get involved in military interventions unless we have a direct threat against our country.
    By the way, although I disagreed with much of your response to my comment, I honor your view. You also made a couple of points I agree with. Thank you for writing. You challenge us liberals to think and look at things differently.


    1. I don’t believe that the U.S. should serve as the world’s policeman and I fully recognize that there has to be limits to what we can and should do.

      What I do believe is that Syria involvement is justified on a couple of fronts: one humanitarian and the other being that I do believe that the chaos in Syria and the Middle East in general is in fact a threat to our country.

      The first is from a humanitarian perspective. With over 250,000 Syrian deaths and counting along with millions displaced and running for their lives and creating general migration chaos throughout other Middle Eastern countries and particularly throughout Europe, I think a moral case can be made from more involvement than we have made to date. There is no doubt that Assad is a heinous tyrant who will stop at nothing to hold on to power. This includes barrel bombing and gassing his own citizens – acts that I will remind you that Obama called crossing a red line for which U.S. would get more involved, only to backtrack on these declarations and do nothing. Assad’s thuggish behavior and the breakdown of civil society has created a haven for ISIS to control vast swathes of territory – territory with which they act in impunity to murder, rape, target people of different faiths for torture and murder, destroy archaeological sites, and otherwise exacerbate an already horrific situation. So even if there was little at stake strategically from the American perspective, I would still be in support of American leadership from the front in building a coalition to suppress the actions of evil polities purely from a humanitarian perspective. In this case, I am not advocating for a Vietnam or Iraq style invasion, but we certainly could be consistently vocal that Assad has to be removed from power and back that stance up with the enforcement of no-fly zones, creating a swath of territory on the Turkish border that is deemed a safe zone from Assad or ISIS incursions and from which to keep citizens safe, train and arm moderate armed forces to defend territory and plan, destroy Syrian air defense systems, build legitimate moderate forces and those allied to us, including the Kurds, and overall continuing to build a broader European and Middle Eastern Allied coalition to solve this. It can’t possibly happen overnight, but at the very least we can create safe conditions in a section of the country and end Assad’s, ISIS, and now Russia’s unrestricted ability to wreak havoc on the citizens of Syria.

      On the second point, I do feel that ultimately this is a significant threat to our country from many aspects. One is that the general chaos and destruction in Syria obviously has spilled into Iraq, causing even more death and mayhem there. This goes to show that such a pernicious conflagration does not stay within borders. It is a dangerous cancer that is impacting the entire global world order: from having deleterious effects on everything from the Turkish election (shifted it towards more authoritarian government out of fear of ISIS and terrorism in general), Russia’s growing involvement in the Middle East, Iran’s continuing power in the Middle East due to its reliance and funding of Shia terrorist groups and proxies that are increasingly looked to by Middle Eastern Shias as the only safe bulwark against ISIS, our Allies in Europe dealing with a tremendous humanitarian and migration crisis, and of course a feeling that if ISIS sits on a patch of land and becomes a state within a state for too long, it will not be too much longer before their gaze does in fact settle on a mass casualty event in the U.S. much like Al Qaeda ensconced safely in Afghanistan could plot and execute an attack on the World Trade Center.

      I recognize that these are very tough decisions and they should be deliberated. I served in the military, so I get that there should be no tougher and more thought out decision for an American statesman to make than when to send American forces into harm’s way. However, I will unabashedly say that I do believe the world does need leadership, and I feel strongly, without treading into overly sappy patriotism, that America is that indispensable nation that is best situated to lead others into such an awful morass. Clearly, when the U.S. doesn’t, nobody else will.

      I love the counter points, almost more than I love affirmation, so keep them coming!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s