Regime Change in Syria: We Should Learn the Lessons of Iraq

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" -- George Santayana

Recently, U.S. Senators McCain (R-AZ), Lieberman (I-CT) and Graham (R-SC), together with various pundits, criticized President Obama's commitment to exhausting all diplomatic and political options in Syria before considering military options (for example, arming rebels, providing safe havens, direct U.S. military support). Obama's critics cite our success in Libya as a model for intervening in Syria. However, Iraq-- rather than Libya -- is the better analogy.

The U.S. has less of a strategic interest in Syria than in Libya. Syria isn't a major oil exporter, unlike Libya (site of one of the world's top ten largest proven oil reserves).

Our strategic goal for Syria is its participation as a responsible, stable partner in regional peace. This is particularly important because of Syria's location -- bordering Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon and Israel. Syria is also believed to have one of the world's largest stockpiles of chemical weapons.

America's worst case scenario in Syria would be a civil war, resulting in a failed state. That failed Syrian state could become a regional base for terrorism, whereby chemical weapon stockpiles fall into the hands of Hezbollah, Hamas, al Qaeda or other terrorist groups. The Assad regime is evil; the successor regime could be even worse. As the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff emphasized, we know almost nothing about the Syrian rebels.