David Calling

Syria and Napoleon’s Open Door

The armchair generals are evenly divided about the consequences of military action against the Assad regime. Napoleon, who knew about these things, gave advice to anyone resorting to war: You push open the door and then you see what happens. That will be the position in the event of the limited strike with cruise missiles that seems at present to be the preferred option of the United States and its allies. Once the door is open, we will have to see what the response to a limited strike will be.

Long accustomed to disaster, Arabs say with a shrug of the shoulders, “The world is ruined, let it be more ruined.” The ruin of Syria is already devastating. Film and videos show entire residential quarters shelled to rubble. Assad is evidently so engrossed in holding on at all costs in the present that he has condemned the future. Years will have to pass if Syria is ever to be rebuilt, and it will never be as it was.

Moammar Qaddafi would have been prepared to destroy his whole country in order to stay in power. Losing the world war, Hitler believed that Germany and its people had proved unworthy and deserved no future. In both cases, their orders and conduct led to their own deaths. Assad, one presumes, must also feel the shadow of death. His threat to attack Israel in the circumstances is an ultimate example of adding ruin to ruin. If his armed forces and the Iranian and Hezbollah mercenaries were really to be diverted to the Golan against Israel, the Syrian rebels would have Napoleon’s open door ahead of them, and that would be suicidal. Which is not to say it won’t happen.

David Pryce-Jones — David Pryce-Jones is a British author and commentator and a senior editor of National Review.

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