Or can they? More bombs and less talk on Syria
June 21, 2016
The Unz Review
It is ironic that fifty-one U.S. State Department employees, perhaps overly-generously dignified in the media with the title of “diplomats,” have come out in favor of removing a foreign head of state by force. Detailing their opposition to the status quo, the signatories submitted a dissent memo through established Foreign Service channels. The document itself is classified, even though the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal clearly have obtained copies, presumably leaked to them by some of the dissident officers.
The signatories have reportedly demanded “targeted air strikes” and the “judicious use of stand-off and air weapons which would undergird and drive a more focused and hard-nosed U.S.-led diplomatic process” to bring down the al-Assad government. They justify their dissent by arguing that “The moral rationale for taking steps to end the deaths and suffering in Syria, after five years of brutal war, is evident and unquestionable. The status quo in Syria will continue to present increasingly dire, if not disastrous, humanitarian, diplomatic and terrorism-related challenges.”
The memo describes the Syrian government’s alleged barrel bomb attacks on civilians “the root cause of the instability that continues to grip Syria and the broader region. Crucially, Syria’s Sunni population continues to view the Assad regime as the primary enemy in the conflict. Failure to stem Assad’s flagrant abuses will only bolster the ideological appeal of groups such as (IS), even as they endure tactical setbacks on the battlefield.”
Based on the media leaks though without having seen the actual document, one might nevertheless reasonably conclude that the authors of the memo clearly see Bashar al-Assad as the fons et origo of all the evils currently prevailing in Syria. The intention is to use military force to compel al-Assad to negotiate seriously to dismantle his own government, himself included, a blunt approach that has not necessarily worked very well elsewhere in recent memory. In fact, it has not worked at all. And the assertion that al-Assad is the major problem is, of course, questionable, ignoring as it does ISIS. The memo conveniently leaves out of the reckoning the U.S. role in destabilizing the entire region by invading Iraq and also pushing for regime change in Syria as early as 2003 since that would presumably implicate the signers in counterproductive policies. The Syria Accountability Acts of 2004 and also of 2010, like similar legislation directed against Iran, have resulted in little accountability and have instead actually stifled diplomacy. Congress sought to punish Syria with sanctions for supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon and for its links to Tehran, making any possible improvement in relations problematical. The 2010 Act even called for steps to bring about regime change in Damascus.