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On Syria, Follow McCain

Mar 19, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 26 • By LEE SMITH
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The White House believes against all evidence that a diplomatic solution to the crisis can be found. Sure, it would be helpful if Putin told Assad that his time was up, but Putin’s in no hurry to abandon his own throne in Moscow; why would he ever urge Assad to step down in Damascus? And why would Assad listen to him if he did?

Regional players are finally coming out strongly against Assad. Last week former Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri denounced the regime and its Lebanese partner, Hezbollah. That Hariri—who has frequently been threatened by Assad and his allies, and whose father Rafik was allegedly killed under Assad’s orders—has taken to the podium is yet more evidence that smart money in the region is betting on Assad’s eventual collapse.

But if the White House wants to spur defections from the Assad regime and promote a swift collapse, it should stop waiting for the Russians and go around them, as well as the air defenses they sold to the Syrians. Take a few tanks or artillery pieces off the board and there will be plenty of defections from the Syrian military. Target the presidential palace in Damascus, headquarters of military intelligence, and the barracks of the notoriously vicious intelligence arm of the Syrian Air Force, and then there will be a surge of momentum for a diplomatic solution.

If the Obama administration insists on leading from behind, it should fall in behind John McCain, now running point on a Syria policy that would actually succeed.

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