The Magazine

Spineless on Syria

Aug 20, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 45 • By LEE SMITH
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But the Obama administration is not thinking seriously about reality in Syria. Rather, it is fretting over the specter of Iraq. Obama’s version of Iraq is a legend he can’t let go of even now. In Obama’s telling, Bush’s war in Iraq was a total fiasco, and he doesn’t want to be hobbled with what he perceives to have been Bush’s burden and blunders. The conventional liberal account of Iraq -considers one of Bush’s biggest blunders to have been disbanding the Iraqi Army and the de-Baathification campaign, requiring the United States to rebuild Iraq from the bottom up. History will judge whether Bush’s choices were the correct ones, whether it would have been better to try to make do with the remnants of Saddam’s vicious regime or not. But the Obama administration thinks it knows the answer, and reflexively warns about preserving Syrian state institutions, and about the unintended consequences of supporting the rebels. The idea is that Syria without Assad could be just as bad or worse.

Really? Iraq may not have entirely come to fruition as “stable, free, and ruled by a democratic, pluralist, and modern state.” But it’s no longer Saddam Hussein’s republic of fear that terrorizes the international community, its neighbors, and its own citizens. Nor is it anymore an enemy of the United States. Syria is, and it is an ally of our most dangerous enemy in the region. The only way that a post-Assad Syria could turn out worse is if the United States plays no role at all in its formation. If we step forward with even minimal energy on behalf of our principles and interests, we will benefit from our efforts. Even the Obama administration should now be able to see this—and to act on it.

—Lee Smith

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