The American Bear


[What] will we do when the provision of weapons fails to solve the conflict? Arming the opposition is held out as an alternative to direct military intervention. When it fails to solve the crisis relatively quickly — and it most likely will fail — there will inevitably then be new calls to escalate Western military support to airstrikes in the Libya-style. In other words, what is presented as an alternative to military intervention is more likely to pave the way to such intervention once it fails. The ‘Arm the FSA’ Bandwagon | Marc Lynch

The 'Arm the FSA' Bandwagon | Marc Lynch

The amazing Marc Lynch with a timely post about Syria:

I want to find ways to help the Syrian people too, badly. And I can fully understand why this looks like an attractive option. But people need to think far more carefully about the implications of funneling weapons to the Free Syrian Army before leaping into such a policy. Here are some of the questions that need to be asked.

First, who exactly would be armed? The perennial, deep problem of the Syrian opposition is that it remains fragmented, disorganized, and highly localized. This has not changed. The “Free Syrian Army” remains something of a fiction, a convenient mailbox for a diverse, unorganized collection of local fighting groups. Those groups have been trying to coordinate more effectively, no doubt, but they remain deeply divided. For all their protestations of solidarity, the Syrian National Council and the FSA show few signs of working well together, while repeated splits and conflicts have emerged in the media within the FSA. So to whom would these weapons be provided, exactly? I expect that what will happen is that foreign powers will rush to arm their own allies and proxies (or are already doing so); which ones are the United States meant to choose? While claims about the role of Salafi jihadists in the armed opposition are likely exaggerated, the reality is that we know very little about the identities, aspirations, or networks of the people who would be armed.

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The Dilemma over Syria | Informed Comment

Juan Cole thinks that (outside) arms to the FSA would be a tragic mistake:

Once you flood a country with small and medium arms, it destabilizes it for decades.

Ronald Reagan spread weapons all around northern Pakistan, and in my view began the destabilization of that country, which now has an endemic problem with armed tribes, militias and gangs. I saw the same thing happen in Lebanon shortly before, during the civil war that threw that country into long term fragility. More recently, we saw a civil war in Algeria (1991-2000) that left 150,000 people dead, which is really no different than what has been going on in Syria except that it was on a much larger scale and the West at that time decided to support the secular generals against the rebelling Muslim fundamentalists. The arming of Iraq post-Saddam has left it a horribly violent society for the foreseeable future (a plethora of US arms given to the new Iraqi military and police were often sold off to guerrillas). And while the war would have been longer in Libya if Qatar and France had not secretly armed the rebels, it likely would have had a similar outcome (what was really important was NATO attrition of Libyan armor). And in that case the problem the country now faces, of militia rule and fragmentation, would have been much less severe.

If people don’t think a flood of arms into the hands of Syrian fighters will spill over onto Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Israel/ Palestine, they are just fooling themselves. The Palestinians in the region have largely given up or been made to give up arms, in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. But if small and medium arms become widespread and inexpensive, it will take us back to the late 1960s and early 1970s when Palestinian guerrillas shook Jordan, Lebanon and Israel.


If you want practical action or even military intervention in Syria beyond financial and economic sanctions, there are only two ways to get it legitimately. That would be to find a way to pressure Russia and China to stop protecting Bashar al-Assad. The other possibility would be to find a way to abolish the one-country veto on the UNSC.

I remember my anger and despair, as a teenager, at the crushing of the Prague Spring by Soviet tanks in 1968. I feel the same way about Syria today. But in both cases, great power sphere of influence politics made it impossible to do anything practical about it. The hope lies only in the longer term. Prague got its spring when the Soviet Union got a reformist premier, who was influenced by decades of Soviet dissident thinking and writing. Syrian dissidents will just have to keep up a non-violent struggle for the truth that might go on for a while. If they can prevail non-violently, their revolution would immediately be more well-grounded and likely to succeed.

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Syrian revolt arrives at the capital’s doorstep | The Washington Post

DAMASCUS, Syria — The upheaval that has roiled much of Syria for the past 10 months is seeping its way into the heart of the country’s capital, puncturing the sense of invulnerability that had until recently sustained confidence in the government’s ability to survive the revolt.

On Sunday, security forces launched a major assault to reclaim suburbs just a short drive from the city center that had fallen under the sway of rebel soldiers fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army.

The sound of gunfire and shelling from a string of suburbs on the eastern edge of the city could clearly be heard in several central neighborhoods, residents said, bringing perilously close a conflict that had until recently been dismissed as a mostly rural, provincial phenomenon from which Damascus, President Bashar al-Assad’s stronghold, would remain immune.

Activists said at least 10 people died in the offensive, among 32 killed Sunday across Syria as the government steps up its efforts to crush what is now, unmistakably, an armed revolt.

In one indicator that those who had once engaged in overwhelmingly peaceful protests now are fighting back, the official news agency, SANA, reported the funerals Sunday of 23 soldiers and police killed in the violence, as well as an attack on a bus in the Damascus suburb of Sahnaya in which six soldiers died.

Those deaths bring into the hundreds the number who have died in the past three days as the Syrian revolt, which threatens to become the bloodiest and most profound of all those in the region over the past year, appears to be lurching into a new and more dangerous phase.

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