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Is there not a fourth option?

Reader comment on item: Support Assad

Submitted by R. Craigen (Canada), Apr 19, 2013 at 15:48

A very thought-provoking post, Daniel.

A few things -- first ...

Second, has the best option evolved over the course of this conflict? Was there not a time that supporting the rebels was both the tactically and morally superior option? Or perhaps we ought to remain agnostic on that point, as there is little clarity, even now, as to the nature of the rebellion forces at the start.

And third, as I see it you lay out an apparent trichotomy: remain neutral/uninvolved, support Assad, and support the rebels. I find it frustrating not to have a fourth, or fifth, option on the table because none of these are palatable.

I needn't lay out such options here because I think you don't lack for imagination on such things and you would surely articulate them better than me anyway. I want to say, though, that while I understand and largely accept your points, there is something repugnant in the position that strategy should override morality. Kissinger's line is very clever but it masks a horrendous attitude toward human suffering: long, prolonged conflicts can be worse than even tyrants coming to or holding on to power.

Balance of power works when its point is to maintain peace -- as in the iconic nuclear standoff between the Soviets and the West. But balance of power in a hot war is the worst of worlds in terms of multiplying human suffering. I am nauseated by those who speak about (for example) the Israeli "disproportionate use of power" against aggressors. What would they want? That Israel pare down its arsenal to small rockets and fire them indiscriminately into Gaza civlian neighbourhoods? That instead of quick, decisive, powerful action that brings immediate hostilities to a close, they mete out responses only at a level equal to the aggression against them, so that the aggressors control the thermostat in the conflict, escalating and deescalating as they find advantage?

Long, drawn-out hot wars are the worst sources of anthropogenic suffering. Nothing compares, not even massive campaigns that crush an opponent overnight. Or I should say, "especially not". A fast war in which one side has overwhelming force (regardless of the moral validity of their cause) are intrinsically less harmful than generations-long nightmares of attrition. The long conflicts also devastate the environment in ways that fast, hot, decisive wars do not.

So, if we must promote the "support the weaker side in order to prolong the conflict between unsavoury sides" tactic, can we not be honest enough to accept the moral responsibility for the inevitable multiplication of human misery and loss that would not have occurred had the conflict come to a timely end?

Hmm. I'll go back for a sec on not suggesting options. Here's an option: These middle-eastern banana republics were created by the West; given that no players look like viable protagonists, why not simply go in and disassemble them? NATO still has sufficient firepower, if determined and given the authority: tell everyone to go to their rooms, take away their nasty toys, cut the failed state into its natural component parts, placing dotted lines between natural tribal, cultural and ideological groups, put a few peacekeepers on the ground, and walk away. I believe in retrospect this would have been a better option in Iraq and Libya (Egypt is a different story).

What I'm saying is that one alternative to actively engaging to prolong hostilities would be to disassemble malevolent states into manageable fiefdoms who have the choice of entering into their own mini-conflicts of no consequence beyond their borders or managing uncomfortable but peaceful detente amongst themselves.

Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".


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Reader comments (72) on this item

Title Commenter Date Thread
bad christian? [16 words]ShishirMay 21, 2013 02:10206201
Take a page out of Yahya's book [32 words]ShishirMay 21, 2013 02:07206200
2Greater Syrian Solution [86 words]Gary GoldmanApr 28, 2013 19:01205713
1Sounds good But..... [35 words]Michael Hanni MorcosApr 29, 2013 22:54205713
Actually, Not Even Close to Good; A Different Plan on the Way [355 words]M. ToveyMay 1, 2013 11:38205713
9Until Divine intervention -- We must act- [69 words]Michael Hanni MorcosMay 2, 2013 19:49205713
13Obama's Promises on Chemical weapons-What If Mr. President- [145 words]Michael Hanni MorcosApr 27, 2013 19:14205685
First clever comment ive read since the conflict started. [96 words]Anton LevanterApr 26, 2013 01:02205627
chaos in the Islam world [181 words]Farhad LahafdooziApr 22, 2013 19:52205465
lose/lose situation [77 words]
w/response from Daniel Pipes
EugeneApr 21, 2013 15:38205387
So Insulting [38 words]Larry S.Apr 21, 2013 07:55205367
Is there not a fourth option? [601 words]R. CraigenApr 19, 2013 15:48205300
4Dr. Pipes what do you think of Obama's feelings toward Islam? [211 words]
w/response from Daniel Pipes
JohnApr 18, 2013 12:04205277
Western help to jihadists [96 words]argus 4Apr 21, 2013 19:18205277
3The Taliban Jihadist Who fight Assad [331 words]JohnApr 17, 2013 10:38205249
A Broader Perspective? [361 words]
w/response from Daniel Pipes
Ron ThompsonApr 16, 2013 13:46205225
Finally! [21 words]FabioApr 16, 2013 12:23205223
The Real Definition of Arab Spring [165 words]Lujack SkylarkApr 16, 2013 08:45205219
Slightly off topic but could Israel purchase land? [46 words]
w/response from Daniel Pipes
EricApr 16, 2013 03:18205214
2Saudi Arabia at it again? [362 words]TomApr 15, 2013 19:56205207
12It's way overdue to confront The Kingdom of Saudia Arabia and make them Pay [166 words]Michael Hanni MorcosApr 27, 2013 19:54205207
3The bombings in Boston [145 words]Lujack SkylarkApr 15, 2013 18:16205204
So what side is the US on? [174 words]yuvalApr 14, 2013 16:27205172
1Modern View [66 words]A Syrian ViewApr 14, 2013 16:15205171
What about your old prediction about Iran and regime change? [39 words]
w/response from Daniel Pipes
PezDispenserApr 14, 2013 15:54205168
1Yes we must support the lesser of two evils ! but we must remember Assad is still evil ! [43 words]
w/response from Daniel Pipes
Phil GreendApr 14, 2013 13:16205165
Will of the people is more important [194 words]PrashantApr 14, 2013 21:33205165
1I agree with Dr Pipes but for different reasons: Autonomous zones, Buffers, Druze, redefining Syrian and Palestine. [306 words]YusufApr 14, 2013 10:58205158
1quite right daniel [29 words]jacob sassoonApr 13, 2013 18:23205143
1More optimistic [81 words]David W. LincolnApr 13, 2013 17:25205142
9What can we learn from Egypt [327 words]
w/response from Daniel Pipes
dhimmi no moreApr 13, 2013 06:59205137
1Another problem with Islamism [139 words]PrashantApr 13, 2013 22:15205137
1Good points [199 words]Will EmbersApr 14, 2013 23:31205137
1Communism is a religion too! [78 words]dhimmi no moreApr 15, 2013 06:51205137
1Another definition of religion [109 words]PrashantApr 16, 2013 22:08205137
1Communism cannot be a religion [159 words]Will EmbersApr 17, 2013 23:53205137
Communism is a religion too! Part two [55 words]dhimmi no moreApr 18, 2013 07:10205137
3Communism is a religion too! Part three [623 words]dhimmi no moreApr 20, 2013 07:19205137
1Liar liar...pants on fire! [328 words]Ali BabaApr 23, 2013 02:25205137
6Islam and communism and the follower of al-Ahmadiyya our dear Ali Baba [773 words]dhimmi no moreApr 25, 2013 07:17205137
2Communism Islam and the bordello verse! [188 words]dhimmi no moreApr 25, 2013 17:48205137
3The Boston atrocity and Islam [206 words]dhimmi no moreApr 25, 2013 18:18205137
1Ali Baba aka Sherlock Holmes [99 words]dhimmi no moreApr 26, 2013 09:32205137
20A Leopard Never Changes its Spots [73 words]Michael Hanni MorcosApr 29, 2013 23:37205137
Maybe [39 words]Ali BabaMay 1, 2013 21:07205137
2Rock and a Hard Hard Place... [59 words]saraApr 12, 2013 21:05205133
2There will be years or decades of Shia-Sunni sectarian war regardless, Assad & IRI revived sectarianism [180 words]cyrusApr 12, 2013 18:11205131
Question [195 words]AlexApr 12, 2013 18:08205130
now look where we are [106 words]Christopher GameApr 12, 2013 18:00205128
3To be and not to be---It has to be Sharia-Free- [48 words]Michael Hanni MorcosApr 12, 2013 16:36205126
1WHY DOES THE U.S HAVE TO TAKE SIDES? [176 words]JACQUES HADIDAApr 12, 2013 16:06205125
the horse has left the proverbial barn [124 words]M.OrbuchApr 12, 2013 15:30205124
2Stay Out [350 words]JonathanApr 12, 2013 15:10205122
1Support Assad policy [134 words]Nazim CairoApr 12, 2013 14:19205121
1Yes maybe [147 words]Lars NielsenApr 12, 2013 14:16205120
Bashar el Assad & Syria [140 words]SAMApr 12, 2013 13:23205119
If it's naive to think remote assistance witll work for Obama's administration... [37 words]
w/response from Daniel Pipes
Abu NudnikApr 12, 2013 13:14205118
core of the question [81 words]mythApr 12, 2013 12:57205117
counting eggs [52 words]mythApr 12, 2013 12:50205116
1Support Assad [219 words]JudithApr 12, 2013 12:47205115
Offer some kind of guarantees to Assad's desperate Alawite, Christian and secular supporters in Syria [233 words]DemsciApr 14, 2013 04:37205115
Stalin and Saddam, another view [128 words]mythApr 12, 2013 12:45205114
1Is it too late? [140 words]Steven LApr 12, 2013 11:55205113
2Gets simpler than that. [16 words]JAGApr 12, 2013 11:28205111
Helping Assad [61 words]Ron SSApr 12, 2013 10:49205110
what about iran axis [58 words]
w/response from Daniel Pipes
arielApr 12, 2013 08:42205108
1From a prophetic outlook your words will ring true in Judeo/Christian observations [471 words]Lujack SkylarkApr 14, 2013 16:06205108
Strongly disagree [108 words]BernardZApr 11, 2013 21:27205104
Interesting proposal but ... [125 words]Jason PappasApr 14, 2013 08:28205104
2Support Assad [51 words]LizApr 11, 2013 19:25205098
2Hmm [40 words]Bruce BirnbergApr 11, 2013 17:56205096
6Totally agree with Dr. DP [93 words]BAApr 11, 2013 17:51205095

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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