What Is the Point of a Syrian Intervention?

by Victor Davis Hanson

If our attitude is that Obama screwed up, but that now the least-screwed-up remedy is to attack Syria, then we are indeed in bad shape. 

Of the bad and worse alternatives, the worse is attacking without specifying our aims, means, and desired results. Yet to do so would convince Obama to drop the idea.

If the objective is to weaken Assad without empowering al-Qaeda-like Islamists, then non-intervention serves that goal far better.

If the objective is to destroy WMD depots, and send a global lesson that they are taboo, where are they and how are we to take them out? And what of the irony that Assad is probably no worse a custodian of WMD than is the opposition that we would de facto aiding? 

If the point is to save face after the empty rhetorical redlines, then at this late date a few hours of cruise missiles will be interpreted by those who count — Russia, Iran, China, North Korea — as a half-serious and pathetic attempt to restore credibility.

And then there are the Middle East skeletons in our closet that rattle so loudly:

Libya is a model for nothing. Leading from behind took out a monster in rehab and gave us Islamists instead, with the logical fruition being the mess in Benghazi. 

We snookered the Russians at the U.N. to support “no-fly zones” and “humanitarian aid” and then bombed the crap out of Qaddafi’s forces in support of militias – don’t expect that ruse to work twice. We sought support from the Arab League but not the U.S. Congress; that too won’t work again. We rode the coattails of the French and British in Libya; both are tired of being led from behind.

Egypt is a model also for nothing. We went full circle from abandoning a pro-American old thief to embracing the anti-American Muslim Brotherhood to anger at an angry junta that we insisted did not stage a coup. All sides’ hating us is difficult to achieve, but they do. Lesson? There is probably not a moderate, viable opposition to Assad at this late date, as we saw with the theft of the Arab Spring by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the demise of the moderates in Libya, and the hijacking of the Iranian revolution by the Khomeinists.

Iraq reminds us that the only way to ascertain WMD stockpiles is to invade the country. And the only way to stop the cycle of violence is regime change followed by occupation — both politically impossible. 

For the liberal Left to support the Obama intervention requires a complete repudiation of their prior opposition to Bush’s intervention in Iraq, when at least Congress authorized the operation and we sought U.N. approval. Compared to Saddam’s WMD death tally, Assad is still a beginner. And while the cost to going into Syria will be far less than Iraq, the stakes are oddly much higher, with a greater likelihood of a wider conflict both inside and outside the Mediterranean.

Afghanistan — surges with withdrawal dates, musical generals, ungrateful allies, murderous enemies — remains a mess, the once “good war” that Obama would put our eye back on and win.

In short, we have no Middle East model for a successful intervention, the president has no track record of resolute leadership in the region, and a go-it-alone attack, without the U.S. Congress, allies, or even an effort at the U.N., is antithetical to the entire liberal critique of prior American foreign policy.