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June 13, 2013

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speculation: we're providing ammo and small arms because if we don't, Qataris and Saudis end up owning the opposition.

there may also be a "let's you and him fight" scenario here. The Saudis spend a couple of years bleeding Iran and Hezbollah? popcorn.

from a brutal realpolitik POV, you can make a case that the status quo suits US interests tolerably well, and better than any plausible alternative likely to emerge soon. not saying I agree, but you could argue it with a straight face.


Doug M.

Huh: turns out that Dan Drezner thinks exactly the same thing --

http://drezner.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/06/14/why_obama_is_arming_syrias_rebels_its_the_realism_stupid

-- right down to the phrase "brutal realpolitik".

I'll add a wrinkle. I think this works in the short to medium term. In the long term, it's problematic, because this conflict is training up another generation of urban guerrillas and religious-political radicals along with networks to support them. Whoever wins, ten years from now veterans of the Syria conflict will be causing problems in all sorts of unexpected places.

But in the short to medium term, from a cold-blooded self-centered US POV, a grinding war of attrition in Syria where neither side can win is probably the least bad outcome.


Doug M.

"But in the short to medium term, from a cold-blooded self-centered US POV, a grinding war of attrition in Syria where neither side can win is probably the least bad outcome. "

It's Iran-Iraq writ small.

My question: what if Iran and Hezbollah start winning? We can respond by increasing our own support, but do we *and Saudi Arabia* know when we should cut our losses and stop doubling down? And if the Saudis don't want to quit when we do, where does that leave us?

Add to this that Main Street isn't on board with this "Cold-blooded self-centered" thing, and the longer this drags on the more pressure there will be for someone to do something. Like send advisors...

Even from the view of brutal realpolitik, this plan relies an awful lot on luck and other people, and doesn't look like it would fail in a good way.

@David, consider the possibility that this is not a good plan, but a least-bad one.

If Iran and Hezbollah start winning... well, a complete victory by Assad (which is unlikely, and will take years) would simply result in a restoration of the status quo in 2010. Except that their Syrian ally will be a completely bankrupt pariah state.

Iran's not fighting to "win" here, but to prevent a major strategic defeat. Hezbollah would sort-of win because the Assad regime would be heavily dependent on them, at least at first. However (1) gratitude has an awfully short shelf life, especially with the likes of the Assad clan, and (2) at the end of the day, Hezbollah is Israel's problem, not ours.

So, not thinking that anyone should get too terribly upset (from a purely strategic POV) if Assad starts to win. Although people will, of course.


Doug M.

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