A Quick PSA: Putting “boots on the ground” in Syria is still a dumb idea

Readers might be mistaken into thinking that I am some kind of statist or rabid interventionist because I often put forth arguments that are nowhere to be found at the Cato Institute or the Mises Institute when it comes to American foreign policy.

I have argued that the federation of countries would be a good idea. I have argued that multilateralism is of the utmost importance when it comes to solving problems. I have no problem using IGOs like the UN or the IMF to bolster diplomacy. I have entertained the notion that the US should take a back seat in hot spots in order to better bait autocratic states into committing blood and treasure to the said hot spot, and then unleashing hell. Sanctions are dumb and never work, but building closer trading ties with an adversary’s enemies is a underdeveloped path.

Statist AF, right?

Wrong!

I am trying to put forth alternatives to “boots on the ground.” I understand that military interventions are a bad thing. I don’t want “boots on the ground.” I understand that the costs far outweigh the benefits. I understand that war is the health of the state. What I don’t understand is how “doing nothing” is a libertarian position. Dogmatic slogans made us lazy a century ago. We lost our claim to the title “liberal” because of it. Dogmatic slogans made us lazy a century and a half ago, and we lost our claim to the title “internationalist” because of it. What will our laziness cost us today?

Boots on the ground? We should be so lucky.

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7 thoughts on “A Quick PSA: Putting “boots on the ground” in Syria is still a dumb idea

    • Ugh. Thanks for the link Dr K.

      I just read, via Reuters, that Kerry went to Moscow and promised Putin that Assad can stay (“for now”). First off, what a nice guy Mr Kerry is for letting Assad stay. Secondly, I am holding out hope that cooperation between Russia and the US will lead to a complete US military withdrawal from the Levant (including special forces and unofficial advisors). Blowback and sectarian strife will continue, but it will be Syria, Russia, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and maybe France that has to deal with the worst of the consequences.

      Nothing (strong men, radicalism, and violent struggles for regional hegemonship) is going to change in the region if policymakers on all sides don’t start asking fundamental questions about legitimacy, sovereignty, and the potential that recognizing more states has for the Middle East (Switzerland and the Netherlands both arose out of the Treaty of Westphalia, for example).

  1. We have been bombing the militants in Syria for years now, and they had Assad on the ropes until Russia decided to directly intervene on his behalf. Now we have given Assad a reprieve, but the militants are still fighting with great if not equal ferocity.

    Why?

    Because every country in MENA has a different faction to support and are actively doing so. The Gulf States are funding anti-Assad militants, as are the Israelis. Hezbollah and Iran are in for Assad. The US is supporting “moderate rebels,” who are either al-Qaeda, al-Qaeda affiliates, ISIS, ISIS affiliates, or some other species of baddie. Turkey is prodding the bear and allowing the free egress and ingress of militant groups through its southern border.

    The best case scenario is that the countries involved wipe out the militants and then provide an eased withdrawal to Assad. This is superior to any “moderate rebels” because Assad, while evil, is the least evil of the bunch and also has the advantage of civil and military institutions. Once peace reigns, ensure he will face no charges now or in the future and let him, his entourage, and his billions go into comfortable exile in some other country, Russia perhaps. That will leave a power vacuum, but ideally a suitable heir would be groomed during the transitional period to take power as soon as Assad leaves. This man must have the backing of a large enough segment of the country, in addition to the army, that governing will be possible. Occupy the more restive parts of the nation with UN troops until peace is fully restored.

    What I consider most likely to happen is that Assad eventually retakes the country and enlists the help of Iran and Russia to help him rebuild and rearm. Because the other countries in the region have demanded his ouster for years, he will remain diplomatically isolated by most of his neighbors. At least, though, Syria will not become a failed state.

    • A solid analysis, Matthew, and one worth making a post out of (hint, hint).

      Your observation about MENA’s many factions forces me to link to these two, older pieces of mine: “The New Caliphate in the Middle East…” and “Imperialisms, Old and New….”

      Implementing an intellectual shift in terms of thinking about more states in MENA would lead to much better consequences in the future. We wouldn’t have to be forced between choosing secular dictatorships or Islamists.

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