Bloomberg: Syria Toe-Dipping and Revisiting the Dream

Peter is mentioned by Ramesh Ponnuru, a Bloomberg View columnist when we was chatting with his peer Margaret Carlson about Syria. Read the whole article at Bloomberg: Syria Toe-Dipping and Revisiting the Dream

Syria Toe-Dipping and Revisiting the Dream

By Margaret Carlson and Ramesh Ponnuru – Aug 29, 2013

Earlier today Bloomberg View columnists Margaret Carlson and Ramesh Ponnuru met online to chat about Syria, the commemoration of the 1963 March on Washington and Senator Tom Coburn’s comments on impeachment. Below is a lightly edited transcript.

Margaret: To add to all the reasons I’m glad I cover domestic politics: Syria. Is there a harder foreign-policy question? I know a few things: The lower in the chain of command the order to use chemical weapons goes, the more we need to attack Syria, not less. More than 1,000 people were gassed to death, and if a rogue general did it, Bashar al-Assad did it.

Are we so spooked by George W. Bush’s precipitate attack on Saddam Hussein that we are now going to hem and haw about WMDs that do exist and have been used? No rebel group did that. Secondly, let’s not pooh-pooh a limited attack when we have absolutely no one to fill the vacuum that would be created by Assad’s removal. Look where regime change has gotten us in Egypt? Democracy does not flower in the sands of the Arab world, no matter how many Arab Springs. And thirdly, could the Barack Obama White House stop telling Assad what they’re going to do and not going to do?

Ramesh: Agreed on the telegraphing of the administration’s intentions. But just because regime change is not working well in Egypt — and would not be likely to yield good results at an acceptable cost in Syria — does not mean that limited intervention makes sense. I just don’t see what that limited intervention will accomplish, and can easily see how it could become less and less limited. It is a tragic situation, but I don’t think it’s actually a hard call to stay out.

Margaret: Along with any rape or Holocaust comments, politicians have to stay away from talk of red lines. Don’t threaten your children — or mass-murderers — with something they know you don’t want to carry out. It’s easy to say now coulda, woulda, shoulda, but there’s never been a good time to arm the Syrian rebels because there has never been a rebel group good enough to trust — or strong enough. The few good guys there are too weak. Ramesh, if you don’t do anything, is that a message to Assad to keep gassing his people? Doesn’t attention have to be paid? Or are you an all-in person?

Ramesh: It says that there are terrible wrongs in the world that it does not make sense for the U.S. government to try to rectify. All-in would make more sense than a symbolic strike. There’d be a real argument for it. But given the absence of a friendly and decent opposition, it doesn’t make sense, either. Maybe we could have done more to shape the opposition if we had intervened earlier, as some people argue, but in the current circumstance I don’t see that there is anything good for us to do. And I take seriously a point that Peter Galbraith makes in the New Republic: the fact that Syria’s persecuted religious minorities don’t want this intervention is a good sign that it does not make sense on humanitarian grounds.

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