Let Assad win? A response to Max Boot

Michael Rubin March 14, 2018 2:04 pm | AEIdeas

Source Link: Let Assad win? A response to Max Boot

{Genocide is not an acceptable path to harmony. – LS}

Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, is a best-selling author and a prolific military historian. Earlier this month, he began a stint as a Washington Post columnist, and the appointment couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. But his March 8 column on Syria, entitled “To Save Syrians, Let Assad Win,” was a doozy. Boot argued:

The way to save lives, I’ve sadly concluded, is to let [Syrian President Bashar] Assad win as quickly as possible. Aleppo was a charnel house in 2016. But now that it has fallen to Assad’s forces, pictures are circulating of civilians strolling through its rebuilt public park. It’s terrible that they have to live under Assad, but at least they’re alive. Tyranny is preferable to endless and useless war.

Boot could not be more wrong. More than a half million Syrians are not strolling in public parks but are buried under them because of Assad’s ethnic and sectarian cleansing. Assad’s misrule and deliberate targeting of civilians have convinced many times that number to flee.

So, with tongue-in-cheek and to illustrate in the spirit of collegial debate why such logic is wrong, let’s apply Boot’s logic through history:

1940: “To Save Brits, Let Hitler Win”

The “Battle of Britain” was waged over the skies of Great Britain for three and a half months in the summer and autumn of 1940. Nazi Germany’s Luftwaffe repeatedly bombed London and other population centers to try to beat the British into submission. The destruction caused by the Nazi bombing was astounding. More than 40,000 civilians died, and another 50,000 were wounded. To support Great Britain would be to engage in Great Power rivalry. If only Winston Churchill had had the good sense to surrender, maybe the British could get back to gardening and strolling in public parks. Tyranny would be a small price to pay.

1953: “To Save Korea, Let Kim Il-sung Win”

The Korean War killed 2.5 million civilians and is a prime example of Great Power conflict in the Cold War. More than 300,000 Americans fought for Korea’s independence against communist aggression, and almost twice as many South Koreans fought; many never came home. And while China, North Korea, and the United States signed an armistice in 1953, the war technically continues. Indeed, with North Korea now a nuclear power with an increasingly sophisticated missile arsenal, is the price of freedom from tyranny worth it? Are 51 million South Koreans really worth the hassle? And even if North Korean civilians suffer in concentration camps for the crime of not crying adequately at the funerals of Dear Leader Kim Jong-un’s late father and grandfather, Pyongyang has some new skyscrapers and a really neat synchronized cheerleader routine so, there’s that.

1975: “To Save Cambodians, Let Pol Pot Win”

Pol Pot may have been a racist, murderous authoritarian, but as he sought to return Cambodia to its agricultural roots, shouldn’t the United States have been supportive? Sure, the Khmer Rouge might have wanted to shoot anyone who spoke a foreign language or who wore eyeglasses, but wouldn’t it be better just to let them consolidate control and build pyramids out of human skulls so that loyal acolytes of Pol Pot might get on with their lives in peace and tyranny?

2018: “To Save Afghanistan, Let the Taliban Win”

Afghanistan throughout its history, like Syria today, has long been the epicenter of Great Power competition and, for nearly 40 years, has also experienced almost constant internecine struggle. Why bother? The Taliban might execute women in stadiums, deny girls education, profit off opium, and rape young Hazara boys but, when they ran Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001, they also maintained an illusion of stability. When I visited the Taliban’s “emirate” in March 2000, they also had parks. Wouldn’t the ability of bearded Pushtun men to stroll in parks in peace be worth the lack of freedom? We blew that opportunity in 2001, but couldn’t we try to give the Taliban their peace now? Who cares if, imbued with the narrative that they had defeated two superpowers, they would become Islamic State version 2.0.

There are other examples, but let’s be serious: Boot’s policy prescription would signal to any dictator that if only he employed enough brutality against his population, no matter what the regional impact, he could have his cake and eat it too. True, the Syrian opposition is a mixed bag, but let’s not create a self-fulfilling prophecy in which we urge abandonment of anti-Assad Syrians and then complain that they don’t have enough support to win.

Boot is right that Syria is a proxy war and has become a center of Great Power conflict. That’s unfortunate for Syrians, but US engagement overseas isn’t just for positioning — it’s for a vision of the world that doesn’t excuse chemical weapons use, ethnic cleansing, or sectarian incitement. Russia, Iran, and perhaps even Turkey approach Syria through a different lens, and the cost of their victory would reverberate far beyond Syria.

Syria is tough to resolve; there is no magic formula. But allowing Assad to win? That might be the worst of all possible scenarios. Assad won’t bring stability — it was on his watch that a local protest amplified into civil war — and the Hamza Ali Al-Khateeb case illustrates why ordinary Syrians will never acquiesce to life, even under Assad tyranny. Nor would Assad — and his Russian and Iranian protectors — be content with simple stability. Boot is a fine historian but, when it comes to Syria, his prescription promises a future worse than the past.


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2 Comments on “Let Assad win? A response to Max Boot”

  1. Skip Patel Says:

    It is truly baffling to see [so-called] “Conservatives” adopting the policies and twisted narrative of Obama-Clinton.

    I’ll make this brief: If the SECULAR Assad government posed such a danger to the region and Israel in particular that it has to be replaced with a gang of raving Islamists…. WE, ISRAEL, WOULD HAVE DONE THE “REPLACING” OURSELVES!

    Once again, clueless Americans are led by the nose by Clintonistas and their Republican Guard (McCain, Graham etc.) to support more chaos in OUR neighbourhood leaving Israel to clean up the mess.

  2. Skip Patel Says:

    “Fighting Terrorism” the American way:

    The US Shouldn’t Be Funding Hezbollah https://is.gd/B58Gin

    Caroline Glick: Trump’s Urgent Lebanon Problem https://is.gd/A4cjrX

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