The Corner

Them against Them, Not Them against Us

I agree completely with Andy McCarthy’s weekend piece on Syria. We have no interest in helping the Muslim Brotherhood overthrow the Assad regime. But I would go further. Civil war in Syria is actually the best real-world scenario for us in the coming years — the longer, the better.

If the Muslim Brotherhood takes over relatively quickly, they’ll patch things up with Iran, based on their mutual hatred for America and desire to exterminate the Jews. But a long, drawn-out civil war between the Brotherhood and the quasi-Shia, Iranian-backed Assad regime will embitter the whole Sunni world against Li’l Squinty and his cohorts and tie down Iran in a messy distraction — the Ayatollahs’ Vietnam, as it were. Hezbollah will either have to disavow its masters in Tehran or risk losing legitimacy. And the already acute tensions within the Iranian ruling elite will only get worse, potentially even contributing to the fall of the regime, as the Afghanistan disaster did in the Soviet Union.

It will be terrible for the Syrian people — especially for the Christians who, unlike in Lebanon, are a smaller share of the population and more dispersed, so they are likely to be able to organize militias and defend themselves. But I’m afraid their fate was sealed with the fall of Antioch in 637; so it’s a little late to worry about that now.

Our national interest lies in ensuring our enemies focus their savagery on each other, not us. I would disagree slightly with the Kissinger quote about the Iran-Iraq war that Andy cites: “It’s a pity they both can’t lose.” But they did both lose — half a million dead in eight years of vicious but inconclusive war. While the ideal outcome for Syria would be stable, pluralistic democracy, that’s pure fantasy in the foreseeable future. Among the actual possibilities, a protracted civil war, à la Lebanon 1975–1990, is the best outcome for the United States.


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