Saturday, March 05, 2005

Syria, Syria, Syria...

Bush's threat to Syria, which is basically of the "Get your troops out of Lebanon, or else" variety has me wondering, "or else, what?"

We'd have two options, of course. We could send troops into Lebanon and drive the Syrians out. Or we could invade Syria, topple the Baathist dictatorship in charge and spread us some more democracy! We have the capability, stretched thin though we are, to do either one. Syria is geographically smaller than Iraq and its military is much weaker. I first saw speculation that Syria would be next in the run-up to the Iraq war and there's little doubt that in the aftermath of the war that Syria has antagonized us by sending weapons and fighters to contribute to Iraq's insurgency.

On the other hand, Syrian President Bashar Assad, who is kind of Saddam Hussein's Mini-me, bought himself some time by giving the US information about global terrorist networks. He was, for a short while, one of our odious friends, if not to the degree of Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf, Assad had still been useful enough to us that we've, so far, left him alone.

That time may be over. Here would be a couple of reasons why we should invade Syria and topple Assad. Then, I'll give you a few reasons why we shouldn't.

First, as I said, we can do it and Assad is a bad enough guy that he certainly deserves it.

It's a two-for-one. Toppling the Syrian government would also free Lebanon from Syria's influence.

We're at a crucial time in the Israeli/Palestinian peace process, one that could lead to an independent Palestine, living side-by-side with Israel. Assad is a big supporter or Palestinian resistance movements. Assad supplies weapons and money that could break the already highly unstable cease fire between the Palestinians and the Israelis, scuttling any hopes for a deal. So, getting rid of Assad now might give the peace process a chance.

Now, as to why we shouldn't:

Sure, we CAN do it, but having to occupy Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria all at once would make us more than a little vulnerable should there be a crisis outside of the Middle East.

Syria is no threat to the US. That's not even a claim you could stretch. Assad is simply not a threat. Invading another country without even the pretext that they're a threat is a terrible precedent to set, and though you could argue that we've already set that precedent numerous times, this one would be damned blatant.

If I were Iran and saw the US invade two of my nearest neighbors in the space of 2 years, I would definitely build nuclear weapons. No doubt about it. I'd build a lot of them. It's the only deterrent that works against the US.

It will cost too much money. Nobody's going to believe, after the $200 billion war in Iraq, that this can be done cheaply and at a time when Bush is claiming that the government can't even meet it's Social Security obligations, it'd be a crime to spend money invading Syria, or even driving them out of Lebanon.

War is bad for the economy in general. Bush would be gambling with a tenuous economic recovery by going to war. War causes uncertainty and that causes corporations to spend less money. So, yet another Middle Eastern war could drive unemployment up, slow GDP growth, decrease tax revenues and make our budget crisis worse.

Maybe Syria will simply back down and get out of Lebanon. I hope so. They're pulling their troops back to the border now, but the New York Times also ominously reports that Syrian troops are "digging trenches." If they back off, then war with Syria is an issue we don't have to worry about.

But if they don't, well... Bush blundered with his "get out, or else" threat. He's either have to follow up, with all the negative consequences that will entail, or back down and lose face.


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