As we speak, the brutal dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad is slaughtering his people. Assad is the son of one of the most notorious dictators of the modern Middle East, Hafez al-Assad, and, like his father, is a member of the socialist Ba’ath Party. It worth mentioning that Saddam Hussein’s ruling party was also a socialist Ba’ath Party, though I don’t know how closely connected the Iraqi and Syrian parties were. I just know both parties are Arab nationalist and socialist in nature.
One of our co-bloggers, Jacques Delacroix, has been an outspoken proponent of bombing the Assad regime in the name of democracy lately, and he has not shied away from proclaiming the Iraq War a success, or condemning libertarians (you read that right) to hypocrisy for U.S. refusal to bomb Rwanda during the 1990’s. He is also a proud supporter of the military occupation of the Balkans by NATO troops and the subsequent partition of Serbia into a plethora of different narco-states, and has not hesitated to heap praise upon President Obama for the recent bombing campaign that led to the removal of Muammar Ghaddafi from power in Libya.
I have addressed Professor Delacroix’s arguments for Libyan intervention here (there is a long dialogue between he and I in the ‘comments’ section). I have addressed his arguments for bombing Rwanda and occupying the Balkans here (again, there is another long dialogue in the ‘comments’ section). I have addressed his claims of Iraqi democracy here (it’s in the middle of the dialogue) and recent events in Iraq have, of course, borne out my argument.
I would like to draw attention now to his most recent idea for helping out the rebellion in Syria, and specifically in the city of Homs, close to where Bashar’s father murdered 20,000 in 1982 in the city of Hamah. This is not embarrass Delacroix or to start a fight, but rather to initiate a dialogue and see where it takes us. I had to ask him what his plans for Syria would be, since interventionists are infamous for being beholden to their hearts rather than their heads. From his other blog:
I would begin by declaring war on the Assad regime though I don’t know how this would be done technically. Or, I would invite Mr Assad to make himself available to the International tribunal for Civil Rights in The Hague, or to any of the Belgian courts that claim universal jurisdiction. The charge would be crimes against humanity.
If President Obama went to the Congress and asked it to declare war on Syria he would be laughed out of the session. This is why executives do not obey the law anymore. By their nature, commercial republics are peaceful and moderate societies. We are not fools and heroes. When given the chance, commercial republics leave interventionist endeavors to nations who believe themselves to be so superior to others that fruitless wars are looked upon as “civilizing missions” rather than for what they really are: a corruption of morals and a reflection of social decay.
It would be interesting to know Professor Delacroix’s opinion on what he would do if the U.S. Congress rejected a proposal for war but an international tribunal or organization ordered something to be done about Assad. I have the sneaking suspicion that Delacroix, like many other interventionists, would prefer that an executive simply bypass congressional authority in order to carry out a war for humanity. Here is my guess as to what Delacroix will say: “If an international tribunal, stationed in Belgium or the Netherlands, were to order something done about Assad, then by God something should be done about Assad! The Rule of Law be damned.”
Delacroix continues with his plans by calling on the U.S. to bomb Assad’s tanks (avoiding “collateral damage” wherever possible) and offerings of asylum in the Caribbean, but this passage struck me the most (keep in mind that one of the main reasons for libertarian distrust of foreign wars is because human beings are largely ignorant creatures – even specialists):
I would give an individual weapon and ammunition to any Syrian who asked. Right now, the armed forces and the security forces have almost all the weapons. Any additional weapon is almost certainly going to go to the opposition. When it comes to weapons, every little bit helps. Individual weapons can be distributed through Turkey and through our current friend in Lebanon, Christians and Druses. I would also provide many cheap radios.
The Islamist-dominated Turkish state has not cooperated with Washington in regards to military activity in the Middle East since 2003, when George W. Bush invaded Iraq. Coincidentally, the democracy of Turkey has only been dominated by Islamists since 2004, after George W. Bush invaded Iraq (without a declaration of war). Yet Delacroix would like to smuggle weapons into Syria from there? Washington would have to go through the Kurdish region to do it. How do you think that would play out? Better yet, Washington could skip Turkey (since they won’t play along) and just smuggle weapons to Syria through Kurdish Iraq! That will look really good to the Muslim world.
Does Delacroix really think that the Druze and the Christians in Lebanon would supply weapons to the Sunni Arabs in Syria? If the Sunnis gain control of Damascus the same way that the Islamists gained control of Iraq or Libya, there will blood in the streets, and it won’t be the blood of the Sunnis.
Poor Delacroix! What’s an interventionist to do? Of course it is my hope, both in my heart and in my head, that the Syrian people will overthrow their dictator. If all goes well, Syria will look like Tunisia or Egypt. If the rebels lose, Syria will look like Syria. If the West intervenes, Syria will look like Libya, or worse, Iraq.
Freedom can never be imposed from above, and especially not at the end of a barrel of a gun.
My own prescription would be to immediately end any sort of sanctions that have been placed on the Syrian state. This would quickly bring weapons and food to the rebels, and it would open Syria up to all sorts of anti-government factions. I would also publicly condemn the Assad regime and encourage the Syrian people by letting them know that the whole world is watching.
There is also the important aspect of our trading policies with other states. The more active our diplomatic corps can be in regards to keeping trade flowing, the less likely states will descend into despotism. Additionally, the more open our capital and labor markets are with other states, the less like likely war will come. Delacroix will try to cry “terrorism” but the main reason for terrorist activity is foreign occupation. If our military were to withdraw from the region, terrorist threats to the American republic from the Islamic world would cease.
Having watched their best-laid plans get flushed down an Iraqi toilet, hawks on both the Left and the Right have been trying to assert a moral superiority in their arguments for a more robust foreign policy. This is as short-sighted as it is immoral. In the short-term, bombing indiscriminately or picking some factions at the expense of others in a society’s civil war has never led to a good outcome. In the long-term, wars in republics generally strengthen the executive at the expense of the people.