Syria: Intervention Will Only Make it Worse

The various schemes that have been proposed for a kind of tiddlywinks intervention from around the edges of the conflict—no-fly zones, bombing Damascus and so forth—would simply make the situation worse.

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Narciso Contreras / Polaris

A bus used as barricade from sniper fire in Aleppo, Syria, on May 3, 2013

This article appears in this week’s magazine under the title, “Intervention Will Only Make it Worse.” Brzezinski rebuts Sen. John McCain, who argues in his article that Syrian intervention is in the U.S. interest.

The Syrian conflict is a sectarian war in a volatile region whose potential to spread and directly threaten American interests would only be increased by U.S. intervention.

The struggle is between forces funded and armed by outside sponsors, notably Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran. Also participating are foreign religious groups not directly controlled by the sponsors, namely the Sunni Salafists and Iranian-aligned militias, not to mention intensely anti-Western al-Qaeda fighters. American involvement would simply mobilize the most extreme elements of these factions against the U.S. and pose the danger that the conflict would spill over into the neighborhood and set Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon on fire.

That risk has been compounded by the recent Israeli bombing of weapons sites inside Syria. Whatever their justification, the attacks convey to some Arabs the sense that there is an external plot against them. That impression would be solidified if the U.S. were now to enter the fight, suggesting a de facto American-Israeli-Saudi alliance, which would play into the hands of the extremists.

(PHOTOS: Chaos and Killing in Syria: Photos of a Slow-Motion Civil War)

Broader regional fighting could bring the U.S. and Iran into direct conflict, a potentially major military undertaking for the U.S. A U.S.-Iran confrontation linked to the Syrian crisis could spread the area of conflict even to Afghanistan. Russia would benefit from America’s being bogged down again in the Middle East. China would resent U.S. destabilization of the region because Beijing needs stable access to energy from the Middle East.

To minimize these potential consequences, U.S. military intervention would have to achieve a decisive outcome relatively quickly through the application of overwhelming force. That would require direct Turkish involvement, which seems unlikely given Turkey’s internal difficulties, particularly its tenuous relations with its substantial Kurdish minority.

The various schemes that have been proposed for a kind of tiddlywinks intervention from around the edges of the conflict—no-fly zones, bombing Damascus and so forth—would simply make the situation worse. None of the proposals would result in an outcome strategically beneficial for the U.S. On the contrary, they would produce a more complex, undefined slide into the worst-case scenario. The only solution is to seek Russia’s and China’s support for U.N.-sponsored elections in which, with luck, Assad might be “persuaded” not to participate.

Brzezinski was National Security Adviser from 1977 to 1981 

BRZEZINSKI IN 2007: How to Avoid a New Cold War

PHOTOS: The Syrian Civil War: Photographs by Alessio Romenzi

12 comments
RamonRoman
RamonRoman

Here you are going over and over and over. Never learning from history the Americans continue in their path of this very particular righteousness, grabbing their hearts, plucking their handkerchiefs to their noses, wiping their tears of "sincere" pain at seeing the bad, bad dictator Assad trying to keep is millenarian country together, in anyway he can. What would be the reaction, sometimes I wander, of the American government if suddenly the "light' armed Tea Party fanatics, together with the NRA democratic people rise in arms against a Tyrant Obama- don't forget, they have several times called Obama a tyrant-?  The Government would try to negotiate with fanatics? What would be the situation?  Let's go to a couple of examples of overreaction by the government and we would be able to answer our enquiry. The peaceful occupation of New York by many disgruntled citizens. The answer: They were send home with a note to their parents by the police. Wasn't it so? What about the reaction of the National Guard against the students during the Vietnam War? Do you have a pacific way of resolving your problems? Remember the Civil War? Remember JFK? Remember RK? Remember the Pastor? Remember your native people? Remember, remember, remember?

  Finally, when your government is tied, not through the Constitution, to a movement of fanatical people, as the Zionists, and your government bypasses the desire of the majority to pursue the Zionist Agenda, many absolutes wrongs are going to be committed. For example: Justify the bombing of a sovereign country as Syria by the Zionists. To try to justify the possible bombing of Iran to please the Zionists. To justify crimes against humanity against the Palestinian to please the Zionists.  Remember the bombing of Iraq supposedly nuclear reactor by the Zionists. The assassinations of the marines in the USS LIBERTY by the Zionists and that the government of that time cowardly justified. The UN delineated the principles of International Law for all the signatories to follow and try to make this world a peaceful planet: well then, the American government and the Zionists have violated the majority of them.

moderateGuy
moderateGuy

Yes, because UN-sponsored elections worked so well in... where was that, remind me again. And the elections in Russia and China themselves work so well too

What a tool you are Brzezinsky.

S_Deemer
S_Deemer

I reluctantly come to the same conclusion. A variation of an old maxim applies: Don't just DO something; stand there. The United States (and GB and France) have a long track record of meddling in this part of the world, and it's hard to think of anything that has been made better, but quite easy to find examples of things made worse by intervention.

aspals
aspals

At last an authoritative statement from someone with vast experience in foreign affairs who tells us what most ordinary people believe to be the case: intervention in Syria would make matters worse. If only people in the UK government would see sense. John Kerry has also given out confused messages. After telling the Russians that the US was seeking a political solution and wanted the parties to talk, he later went on to lay down pre-conditions, namely, the absence of Assad. If you genuinely want peace talks to commence, the priority is to get the parties talking. Setting pre-conditions which one side or the other is bound to reject only demonstrates that the initial intent was insincere.

RichardLanders
RichardLanders

Whatever their justification, the attacks convey to some Arabs the sense that there is an external plot against them... Well, that's an understatement. The entire Arab worldview is to believe themselves victims and the targets of external plots.

oldwhiteguy
oldwhiteguy

The author is correct.  This region is going to be in turmoil for the next fifty years and likely beyond.  Further, our need for their oil continues to lessen.  All this could be disregarded if we could either bring it to a quick and decisive conclusion (we can't) or if our intervention would make more friends than enemies (thought it would in Iraq - how wrong we were). I truly do feel for the human suffering going on there.  But we lost 4,000 of our troops and killed hundreds of thousands of civilians when we went into Iraq, not to mention running up a trillion dollar tab doing it.  The people in the Middle East are going to have to solve the problems of the Middle East.

RamonRoman
RamonRoman

@oldwhiteguy That's damn right! But who has divided the Middle East? Who put there a group of fanatics who want more and more land not belonging to them to fulfil a prophesy? For a long, long time you have used the middle East to fill your tanks and to have a nice life, disregarding what the majority in the world were looking for. I respect the American freedom for advancing in Sciences in spite of the fanatical theists and I am pretty sure, that together with the free minds, scientists, of the world they will find a solution to new energies replacing the oil taken by a few dictators friends of the USA. Do you think that the powers that be, through the American Government, are going to leave the middle East alone? Too much to lose for the moment and for this reason they care so much when many lives are being lost, specially if those lives belong to our supposed friends, al-Qaeda and terrorists fed by your government and still being fought by your government in Afghanistan,  are being slaughtered in Syria. Boo hoo hoo, crocodiles tears. They will never be left alone while there is oil necessary for the American economy and a Zionist State that protects this oil from the enemies of the American Zionists.

formerlyjames
formerlyjames

@oldwhiteguy 

Indeed.  But I would advise against following most advice of the author.  He is a hypocrite.  Not to disagree with you, but Brzezinski has spent his lifetime propping up the foreign policy you, as well as I, are wary of.

formerlyjames
formerlyjames

Brzezinski would know.  He helped light the fuse in Afghanistan.  He supports the Chechens, the butchers of Beslan School No. 1.  He hates Russia and is still fighting the cold war.  

AhmetUsta
AhmetUsta

No reservations were made at all before Iraq and Afghanistan intervention.May we ask why now at the time of hundreds of civilians,babies,elderly men women slaugtered in their homes let alone those flee.

destor23
destor23 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Finally, somebody who realizes that the Saudi and Qatari plutocrats funding the rebellion might not have U.S. interests at heart.