More War?

The United States has been at war for more than a decade. Thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, Afghans, and others have been killed. Tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians have been maimed or crippled. Trillions of dollars have been spent on these wars, and billions more on rebuilding Iraqi and Afghan society and trying to establish some form of democratic government. Beyond the destruction of Al Qaeda, the United States has little to show for the sacrifices made and money spent. The effort to bend our adversaries to our will first through military force has not worked. 

Given the history of the past decade, it’s astonishing that calls for U.S. military intervention in the Middle East are mounting once again. The slaughter of civilians by the Assad regime in Syria is appalling, and the world’s outraged response entirely justified. Yet demands for military intervention are premature and imprudent. Similarly, demands now being made by the Israeli government, and by all too many in Congress, that the United States issue an ultimatum to Iran to halt its nuclear program or face a preemptive strike are rash and irresponsible.

No one disputes the brutality of the Syrian regime. Remarkably, there is unanimity among Arab governments that Assad must go. Action by the UN was cynically vetoed, however, by Russia and China. Russia has long provided military aid and equipment to Syria, and both Russia and China fear international efforts to protect citizens from the depredations of their own governments. A Security Council condemnation would have been useful, but military intervention was never an option. The Syrian army is one of the most powerful in the region and its elite units and officer corps, drawn predominantly from the same Alawite minority as the Assad family, are deeply loyal to the regime. In all likelihood, intervention would precipitate an even bloodier civil war, one that could easily spread to Syria’s neighbors, who are beset by similar ethnic and sectarian divisions. To neutralize Syria’s Sunni majority, the Assads have carefully cultivated the loyalty not only of their fellow Alawites, but also of Christians and the Sunni business elite. Fearing reprisal killings and future persecution, all these groups will resist a Sunni—and possibly Islamist—takeover. Further complicating the picture, the rebels are divided and poorly led. At the moment, the best hope for stemming the bloodshed and increasing the likelihood of regime change is to tighten the economic and diplomatic sanctions now in place. That will take time. Before Assad’s supporters will abandon him, they will have to be convinced that any transitional government will protect minority communities and interests, and that Alawites, Christians, and others will have a share of power in the new government. 

Of course, there are no guarantees that diplomatic and economic sanctions will work against either Syria or Iran, but war must remain a last resort. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is currently in the United States to press for a preemptive military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Netanyahu has made no secret of his view that the economic and political sanctions the Obama administration and the international community have brought to bear on Iran will not induce it to give up developing a nuclear weapon. Israel is now threatening to bomb Iran, unless it gets a guarantee that the United States will do the bombing with its more potent weapons at a later date. Netanyahu is even insisting there can be no negotiations with Iran unless it ceases nuclear development altogether, something no one thinks the ayatollahs will do, and a position the United States rightly rejects.

President Barack Obama should press forward with sanctions and negotiations. If the Iranians agree to limit nuclear development to peaceful purposes and accept a stringent inspection regime that ensures no nuclear material is being diverted to weapons manufacture, Israel and the region will benefit enormously. A preemptive attack will only delay Iran in acquiring nuclear weapons while strengthening the regime’s resolve to do so. It will also unite what is now a deeply alienated population behind a domestically discredited Iranian leadership. One need not be naïve about the threat Iran poses to think that sanctions and careful diplomacy may yet bring the Islamic republic to the negotiating table. Over the past decade, exaggerated fears about the intentions and capacities of our enemies have been all too easily manipulated. Mastering fear, not surrendering to or exploiting it, should be the first response of a democratic government.

March 6, 2012



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Wouldn't be great to drop the sanctions and continue with negotiations along with the USA and all countries possessing Nuclear Bombs start dismantling all their Bombs and quit testing new Bombs and WMD? I'm surprised that the editor and author of this article doesn't suggest this. To expect a country not to have nuclear power when others have the power seems hypocritical, arrogant and self-righteous

A good editorial and good comments by Kenneth A. Lerczak.  We are "hypocritical, arrogant and self-righteous" about nuclear weapons, possibly because we feel that only "responsible"people like us can be trusted with them.  Unfortunately, the rest of the world realizes that we are also the only ones who have used nuclear weapons so far. I'm sure Iran hears the drumbeats of war in this country and may feel they need protection from us.

When men women and children are being tortured and killed every day for a year now by a regime we have labeled part of the axis of evil,and we don't stop it then we ourselves are complicit with evil. This narrative of peering into the future with concerns about the possibility of a civil war and retaliations among various groups being used as a rationale for not stopping the slaughter of civilians by this regime, is, like a jornalist in syria said on cnn-a narrative like like something out of  alice in wonderland.What could be worse then a military regime torturing and murdering men women and children who cannot fight back? A civil war means sides fighting each other and that at least opens up the possibility of negotiations and a peace treaty.But that aside mankind is us now and these people are rising up to topple an evil regime and are being tortured and murdered by the regime. to concern ourselves with what could happen after that is truly bizaare and i believe demonic.if christians and others side with assad because he's- well good for christians  is not a moral position in the face of the torture and murder of men women and children who well - they'ret not christians.Whoever the suuni people  are -they're people first and what is happening to them is a virtual holocaust. where is our humanity? If these were chrisitans what would we be saying? If christians support assad then they're wrong,if alquada and  islamist groups support the people rising up against this mass murderer then they're right.The reality of men women and children being tortured and murdered by a military regime trumps all narratives of good vs. evil,sunni vs. christian and alowites etc. and concerns about "what will happen to the christians or other minoritiesi if assad is stopped". mankind is us now-later for that.This too oft cited fact that the people being killed are sunnis and ...[all the reasons given why we should not stop him from kiling these people] is at its core an assent to the ethnic cleansing and attempts at genocide of these people.

We have failed miserably throughout the middle east. Perhaps the problems are unsolvable, but our bellicose approach and recent saber-rattling does not help to win over suspicious peoples to sit down and discuss peaceful solutions. We are not trusted nor have we earned their trust after our sordid enterprises in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yes we have the power to destroy and maim and kill, but do we even want to have some power to heal, to settle differences, to even sit down peacefully and talk? Shaking one's fist will seldom secure an invitation to tea.

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