Dan Drezner and co-blogger Doug Muir have independently suggested that destabilizing Syria is in America’s interest. In Doug’s words: “But in the short to medium term, from a cold-blooded self-centered U.S. point of view, a grinding war of attrition in Syria where neither side can win is probably the least bad outcome.”
They may be correct about the Administration’s thinking. But I do not see why a grinding war of attrition is in U.S. interests.
Consider the alternatives:
- Rebel victory. Most likely outcome is more civil war, only without U.S. abetment. Best case is a somewhat less hostile Syrian government. Worst case is we swap one hostile regime for another. But regardless few seem to think that the levels of support currently under consideration would let the rebels win.
- Government victory. Assad will be much weaker than before the war. Hezbollah might claim some credit for the victory, but their objective power won’t change: it will just be back to the status quo ante.
- Mostly-peaceful stalement. All the benefits of a grinding war of attrition, without the deaths.
Protracted war weakens one already-weak quasi-enemy: the Syrian government. But (1) and (3) accomplish that near-pointless result without the deaths and destabilization. (2) meanwhile leaves us with a weakened pariah government in Damascus, which is not a threat to U.S. interests.
In fact, our co-blogger said as much when asked what the U.S. should do if the tide turned in favor of the Syrian government despite American aid to the rebels: “Not thinking that anyone should get too terribly upset (from a purely strategic POV) if Assad starts to win.”
Given that we should not care if he starts to win, I do not see why we should try to the drag out the war. From a purely self-interested realist perspective.