Don’t expect Israel to believe Obama about Iran when he says, ‘All options are on the table.’ Clearly, they’re not.
I. Pre-Pearl Harbor echoes
A US Senator, Mitch McConnell, states that no US security interest is at play when Bashar Assad uses weapons of mass destruction. We have here a resounding echo of the statements of Republican senators in 1939 and 1940 that Hitler represented no threat to US security. It was strictly a European problem.
Again, pop history is sweeping the land. The argument, such as it is, runs something like this: Every time the US intervenes in wars in which Muslims are involved, the US only strengthens the jihadists and makes things worse. So it was in Bosnia. So it was in Iraq and Afghanistan. And so it would be in Syria.
If only history were that simple. Facts are stubborn things. Fact in the Balkans: Democracy is in place there. Fact in Iraq: It is hard to imagine anything the US did in Iraq, however misguided, that was worse than Saddam Hussein’s brutality. More to the point: Syria. The uprising there began in March, 2011, as a non-violent protest; jihadist elements did not get involved until about a year later, and still represent a minority of the Syrian rebels.
We define appropriate intervention in Syria as the imposition of a no flight zone there, the extension of substantial military aid to the non-jihadist rebels there, pinpoint military bombing of Assad’s headquarters and palaces and, if possible, pinpoint bombing of Assad’s WMD depots. Conveniently ignored by opponents of this type of military response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons are these questions:
II. Non-intervention leaves eight problems in place
1. How will non-intervention by the US reduce or eliminate jihadist influence in Syria?
2. How will the identification and destruction of all of Syria’s weapons of mass destruction — even if this could be done — eliminate jihadist influence in Syria?
3. How will non-interference by the US convey any signal to Iran other than it is free to export terrorism anywhere in the world, including the Middle East?
4. How will non-intervention by the US stop the growing influx of malignant Syrian influence in Iraq?
5. How will non-intervention by the US stop the threat to the stability of Jordan’s regime, caused not by jihadists but by the Assad regime, via the influx of some one-half million Syria refugees into Jordan?
6. How will non-intervention by the US serve the best interests of Israel, whose longest border is with Jordan, and whose stability, even if Assad’s WMD were destroyed, would still be threatened by Assad?
7. How will non-intervention by the US defeat or even deflect the trigger-happy Hezbollah warriors who threaten not only Israel but Bulgaria and other targets around the globe?
8. How will non-intervention by the US stop or even slightly impede Russia from continuing to arm the Syrian regime?
No doubt, a restricted attack by the US on Syria’s WMD would not solve all of the problems outlined above. But it would send a strong message: Chemical weapons cannot be used with impunity.
Which bring us to the wrestler on the floor, pinned: In that position, he’s willing to talk. To beg for a reprieve. Iran, pinned by punishing sanctions, now says it is willing to talk, and Syria, taking the cue, now says it is willing to talk about giving up its WMD. Translation: The negotiations to accomplish that — not that it will ever be accomplished — will stretch out until all political will to punish this evil man, Bashar Assad, for resummoning scenes from the gas chambers of Hitler is gone.
III. Dismantling Syria’s WMD? Don’t hold your breath
Here is why negotiations with, or over, Syria’s WMD are not likely to work:
Syria still denies using sarin gas; so what are the chances of Syria unveiling all of its WMD storage depots? Even if it were willing, how likely is this in a war zone?
Even if Syria does unveil some of its storage depots, has no one noticed that Obama has now given the Assad regime three weeks to move them, and to hide them? Does anyone believe that Syria, under threat of a military strike from the US, has merely sat on its weapons? How many more weeks will Obama and Russia and the UN Security Council and its inspectors give Syria to hide its WMD is anyone’s guess. Our guess is a lot.
Recall: Israel saw a nuclear plant arising in Syria in 2007. Israel acted. Israel bombed it. No Israeli prime minister made a single speech. End of story. (And — note well — no military response by either Syria or Russia.) This is exactly what Obama, facing the terrifying use of chemical weapons in Syria, should have done. Not speech after speech, against which Obama’s inaction communicates that Obama has been trying to convince himself, more than anyone else, of the justice of responding to Assad’s use of poison gas.
Perfect Obama political theater: The most beautiful, articulate, persuasive justification for acting against the use of WMD — and no action.
What has this delay wrought? Isolationism, in conjunction with the pop history. No doubt, some people needed no delay in order to oppose any military strike against Syria. But Obama’s needless decision to consult Congress — his overt hesitancy to act in a manner appropriate to the position to which he was elected and consistent with his own red lines — stoked this isolationism. In the end this delay gives him the political cover to have it both ways: To justify military action against Syria, and not to take any such action, although, thankfully, he still threatens it.
By the way, there is other action, besides military action, and besides the unrealistic attempt to dismantle Syria’s WMD peacefully, that the US can take against Syria. That is to sanction the Russian banks that make its supply of weapons to Syria possible. Russia can and should be treated the same way the US is treating Iran: with comprehensive sanctions.
IV. It comes down to this: genocide
There are no simple choices here, only hard ones. Given the 20th-century’s lust for genocide, given the unspeakable potential of chemical weapons for genocide, given the sordid reality of conscienceless leaders willing to do anything to stay in power (or expand their power), and given Assad’s and Putin’s obduracy, we prefer to take the hard choice not taken by Republican senators in the late 1930s, which made Pearl Harbor inevitable.
Precisely because of the track record of the jihadists, we see their use of WMD as inevitable, if Assad is not stopped now.
Meanwhile, do not think that Israel is watching this Obama charade and not drawing its own conclusion: “On Iran, we’re on our own.”
Copyright © 2013 by the Intermountain Jewish News