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The Flag of the World

-G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

This here blog is a glimpse or two or three at the condition of the 'fortress of our family' through the eyes Timothy Goddard, a Christian writer with an unhealthy interest in politics living in the Puget Sound area.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2003


What to do about Syria?
Suddenly, the world is all aquivver over Syria, and they've obviously taken over Iraq's spot on the Axis of Evil. Ever since the tag-team warnings at the end of March by Powell and Rumsfield to Iran and Syria, Syria has been in the center of talk about "who's next?" The answer is, most likely, Syria. But the question is, how? I have a few ideas.

First off, there's a very good chance this is a feint by the Administration. It'd be both classic and slick--make loud noises about Syria, while in the background preparing to change regimes in North Koreao or Iran. I don't think that's the case--but then, that's exactly what they want me to do.

I think Syria's next, but not in the way anyone supposes. Not a lot of people--except, maybe Orrin Judd--are calling for a straight up invasion right now. Justin Weitz says there shouldn't be sanctions, but doesn't exactly nail down what should be done. Amir Taheri in the Times Online (via my Air Force correspondent) suggests that the US is right to pressure Syria, but the UK is right that they can be negotiated with. He also suggests we should ask for the moon:
The Assad regime will try to give the minimum to ensure its survival, as it has always done. But, unlike Saddam’s, it also knows when not to believe its own slogans. Using diplomatic, political and economic pressure while keeping the military option open, the US-led coalition should ask for the maximum. That includes support for the growing reform movement in Syria itself, a movement that many say is secretly endorsed by President Assad against the old guard.

The liberation of political prisoners, the lifting of the ban on political parties and trade unions and, in time, the holding of free elections are among the demands of Syrian reformists. Other demands should include an end to Syrian support for terrorist groups, a termination of its alliance with hard-line Khomeinists in Tehran, the denial of safe haven to fleeing Iraqi Baathist criminals, and public support for the “roadmap for peace” as proposed by President Bush and backed by the new Palestinian Prime Minister, Mahmoud Abbas. Last but not least, Syria must end its occupation of Lebanon, and the Mafia-style milking of that country that has enriched Baathist big shots. The momentum for change created by the victory in Iraq should not be wasted.
This sounds roughly right, and it's about what I think the Bush Administration is doing, less, maybe, the "momentum" idea. Step 1 in Operation: Syrian Freedom was the thorough demolishing of the Baathists next door, followed by the stern warnings to Syria, and the even sterner decleration "there is no plan for an invasion of Syria," the sort of pronouncement no one makes without the loud, ominous "yet" coming silently after. The loss of an ally at once scares them spitless, surrounds them with pro-US governments, and smashes their already "moribund" economy into little bits--even without sanctions. Step 2 will be the continuing demands to turn over members of Saddam's regime and put a stop to WMD plans--along with the laundry list of democratization Taheri mentions above. This, I imagine, will look similar to the pressure exerted on Iraq, although probably not going through the UN to the extent that we did before. This will probably be a long phase, as we page the way for Step 3. This will be the setting up of a halfway decent government in Iraq--this will hopefully prove US intentions (to those who will ever be convinced) and make dictators such as Assad even more nervous. And, with any luck, we'll be able to move our bases--some of them, at least--from Saudi Arabia to Iraq--this will take away one ostensible source of anti-American sentiment (it was the spark that lit Osama bin Laden's powder keg). That goes into Step 4, the Road Map for Palestine--hopefully dampening, at least, another source.

So, then, after a long period of diplomatic pressure and systematic weakening of the regime, if there is no substantial progress, there will be an ultimatum given, and if the ultimatum is not agreed to, then there will be military action. By this time, the case will be thoroughly made to the world (who probably won't be any more convinced than they were this time) and, more imporantly, to the American people and our allies. I'd guess that, because the US has already shown a willingness to flaunt whatever we want to achieve our ends, Syria will recognize the danger and cave, probably even before an ultimatum is given. That's the beautiful thing about this war--it will allow us to get more done without war in the future.

But using a word like "momentum" misses something very important to this whole "War on Terror" endeavor: Bush's patience. He was patient after 9-11, and didn't need its momentum to take out the Taliban Afghanistan. He was patient after Afghanistan, and didn't need its momentum to take out the Baathists in Iraq. Likewise, he will be patient after Iraq, and will not need its momentum to take out the Baathists in Syria--nor will he need that momentum to take out the mullahs in Iran, or whoever else comes next. It's all about patience. Each segment of the War on Terror needs to be done seperately and justified seperately. Bush seems to recognize this, and the moves he's making regarding Syria appear to lead him in a slow, but very steady direction towards the neutralization of another threat--this time, hopefully, in a more peaceful manner.
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