Between the chemical weapons response by the US, that seemed to back down only under heavy pressure, and arming rebels attacking a UN recognized state, it seems the US wants to topple the Assad regime.
Why is this? I’m not asking about legality like in the other thread, I’m asking about motive.
Assad is responsible for probably 100,000 deaths. He uses chemical weapons, sponsors terrorism, he’s a bestie of Iran and Hezbollah, and his people want him out. Are you all saying that you want him in? Is it not goddamned obvious why most sane people would prefer to see him gone?
It’s not so much that I don’t want Assad out, I want to know what happens if he’s gone before deciding. Do you know? But frankly, it’s not up to Americans to decide such things. Mainly I want us to stay out of there unless there is a direct threat to the US or one of our allies.
I was giving the opposition “credit” for the deaths of a very large number of Assad forces and supporters, but yes – he’s got a lot of blood on his hands.
The question of who might replace Assad is of course a great one. There is no easy answer. But the reason why so many people want Assad gone – and it’s been US policy to see him go for what, like three years? – is just perfectly obvious. It has nothing to do with pipelines or trade routes. It has nothing to with stupid little conspiracy theories. There’s zero evidence to suggest that the US actually wants him to stay in for the long term (setting aside the question of who will replace him). As Freud said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar; the US and most other countries want Assad gone because he’s a very, very bad thug.
Are you sure it’s just an issue of who will replace Assad? I’m thinking that we don’t know if there will even be a Syria if Assad is deposed, and we don’t know what the aftermath will look like, although it probably will be one of the nastier civil wars we’ve seen (even nastier than now), AND it could very easily spill over into at least one neighboring country (Lebanon).
Anyway, like I said, it’s not for the US to decide. We’re not in charge of the world.
At the time of the initial protests against Assad, his opponents tended to be - or at least seemed to be - more moderate in nature than they eventually became (or turned out to be). At that time, Assad’s Bad Guy credentials were congealed, and US policy towards Syria was similarly driven by this perspective. Eventually the opposition morphed into - or turned out to be - dominated by extremist Sunni terrorists, and the picture became murkier, but these things take time to pivot. US attitudes to Assad have changed somewhat, but not as much as he never been in his initial position.
In addition to the above, there is also something similar happening on a broader scale. Assad is backed by Shiites, most notably Iran, and to the extent that the US sees its greatest opponents as Iran and its Shiite allies, the US wanted regime change in Syria to break that alliance (and also disrupt the Shiite supply chain from Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon). But as the Sunni extremists have become bigger and bigger players, US attitudes towards the Shiite extremists is also pivoting somewhat. A lot of mass executions will do that.
But let’s move back to reality here: when the Arab Spring revolts began, are you suggesting that we should have embraced stability over regime change, and endorsed Assad staying in power?
If not, in the time since the Arab Spring evolved into a civil war, at what point would you have switched your support? Would it be after Assad drove a few million of his people into refugee camps? Or after he gassed a thousand people? Or more recently, when he basically wrote off the eastern half of his country because of ISIL, in order to focus his brutality on the Free Syrian Army struggling to hang on in the south and north?
You present a difficult choice, but it’s also a bit of a false dichotomy. I would suggest that we neither embrace stability nor regime change until establishing that one is a significantly better outcome. There’s something to be said for letting events take their course, especially when you don’t know who you’re getting into bed with WRT regime change.
I know it’s a hard question, but that’s the whole point. It is a hard question.
Put yourself in the Oval Office in summer 2011. Syrians have been streaming onto the streets to demand an end to a dictator for months. Suddenly, tanks start shooting those protesters, on Assad’s orders. Your advice to the President would be, “Let’s just hedge our bets and say nothing. Supporting the protesters in seeking Assad’s ouster could be risky, we shouldn’t join their call for democratic elections.” Who the heck would say that?
And if that advice is ignored and the US says that we support the opposition against these government massacres, once again, just when is it that you think we should have reversed position?
I don’t know if it’s so much controlling outcomes as predicting outcomes. Or even assessing the current situation.
I think there’s a tendency to assume that the enemies of a Bad Guy are therefore Good Guys, and also a tendency to assume that the masses of people in any country and culture don’t really support atrocities against anyone and just want to live in peace and harmony with everyone else. So people consistently think that that you can just remove the Bad Guy with a few of his Evil Henchmen, and things will fall into place. The reality is that people in other cultures and with other histories can think very very differently than we do.
But this is a mistake that gets made again and again and again. The removal of Baby Doc Duvalier sticks in my head as a specific example, but there are any number of instances of Bad Guys who kept a brutal stability for some time and whose downfall was accompanied by great cheering from Western crowds, only to be followed up with years of all-purpose violence, and much suffering all around.