The always erudite Roger Carstens pens this OpEd for Foreign Policy Magazine. In it, he reminds the decision makers, and those who champion US action in Syria, to temper enthusiasm with capability and proper focus. His piece starts off by framing the question:
As calls for an international intervention in conflict-wracked Syria begin to echo in Washington, it is critical that policy-makers remember the lessons learned in Afghanistan. One recent editorial on the crisis highlighted Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's use of a United Nations Security Council brokered peace plan to buy extra time to crush his opponents, the Free Syrian Army. The plan, pulled together by international envoy Kofi Annan, called for Syria to withdrawal troops, tanks and heavy weapons from major urban areas where fighting has claimed over 1000 civilian lives in the last week. Assad's predictable outmaneuvering of the U.N. drew this response from the Editors:
"The inescapable reality is that Mr. Assad will go on killing unless and until he is faced with a more formidable military opposition. That is why the shortest way to the end of the Syrian crisis is the one Mr. Obama is resisting: military support for the opposition and, if necessary, intervention by NATO."
Carstens comes to support the idea of some US intervention, but in a measured manner. He offers some really good things to consider:
I think that they are right. But having participated in an intervention or two in my day, here are a few thoughts to consider before we jump in:
- Go In Light
- Go In Smart
- Go In Cheap
- Go In With Humility
- Go In - But Be Prepared To Walk Out
- Lastly, Never Take the First Step Until You Know That Last.
It's one thing to have made these mistakes in Afghanistan. We had a bit of a vengence mindset and then a desire to "fix" things so they didn't happen again. We've learned painfully that that may not have been the best way to go. However, going back to being expeditionary and focused may help bring America back to doing intervention the right way.