Syria’s Balkan Tragedy

It was the credibility of the US threat of military intervention that seems to have led Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to cut a deal: Give up his chemical weapons in exchange for remaining in power. But what will happen to America’s credibility, and that of the West, if the agreement falls apart?

BERLIN – Pacifist doctrines may say otherwise, but combining diplomacy with the threat of military force is a highly effective tactic, as we have just seen in Syria. It was the credibility of the United States’ threat of military intervention that seems to have led Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to cut a deal brokered by his main allies, Russia and, less directly, Iran. Assad now appears prepared to give up his chemical weapons in exchange for remaining in power. But what will happen to America’s credibility, and that of the West, if the agreement falls apart?

The deal struck by the US and Russia triggered widespread relief in most Western capitals, where political leaders simply are not prepared for military intervention, even if Syria’s government is killing its own people with poison gas (on this score, the agreement amounts to a confession by Assad). After a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, the West would rather stay at home; neither the US nor the United Kingdom – nor most other NATO members – wants to become entangled in another Middle East conflict that cannot be won.

Indeed, there are only bad options for the US in Syria. Military intervention has no visible end point and would only increase chaos. But staying out will produce nearly the same result and dramatically shake America’s credibility in a crisis-ridden region, with serious consequences for the future. Furthermore, deployment of chemical weapons invites escalation.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.

required

Log in

http://prosyn.org/21YFFx4;
  1. Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

    The Brexit Surrender

    European Union leaders meeting in Brussels have given the go-ahead to talks with Britain on post-Brexit trade relations. But, as European Council President Donald Tusk has said, the most difficult challenge – forging a workable deal that secures broad political support on both sides – still lies ahead.

  2. The Great US Tax Debate

    ROBERT J. BARRO vs. JASON FURMAN & LAWRENCE H. SUMMERS on the impact of the GOP tax  overhaul.


    • Congressional Republicans are finalizing a tax-reform package that will reshape the business environment by lowering the corporate-tax rate and overhauling deductions. 

    • But will the plan's far-reaching changes provide the boost to investment and growth that its backers promise?


    ROBERT J. BARRO | How US Corporate Tax Reform Will Boost Growth

    JASON FURMAN & LAWRENCE H. SUMMERS | Robert Barro's Tax Reform Advocacy: A Response

  3. Murdoch's Last Stand?

    Rupert Murdoch’s sale of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets to Disney for $66 billion may mark the end of the media mogul’s career, which will long be remembered for its corrosive effect on democratic discourse on both sides of the Atlantic. 

    From enabling the rise of Donald Trump to hacking the telephone of a murdered British schoolgirl, Murdoch’s media empire has staked its success on stoking populist rage.

  4. Bank of England Leon Neal/Getty Images

    The Dangerous Delusion of Price Stability

    Since the hyperinflation of the 1970s, which central banks were right to combat by whatever means necessary, maintaining positive but low inflation has become a monetary-policy obsession. But, because the world economy has changed dramatically since then, central bankers have started to miss the monetary-policy forest for the trees.

  5. Harvard’s Jeffrey Frankel Measures the GOP’s Tax Plan

    Jeffrey Frankel, a professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and a former member of President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers, outlines the five criteria he uses to judge the efficacy of tax reform efforts. And in his view, the US Republicans’ most recent offering fails miserably.

  6. A box containing viles of human embryonic Stem Cell cultures Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

    The Holy Grail of Genetic Engineering

    CRISPR-Cas – a gene-editing technique that is far more precise and efficient than any that has come before it – is poised to change the world. But ensuring that those changes are positive – helping to fight tumors and mosquito-borne illnesses, for example – will require scientists to apply the utmost caution.

  7. The Year Ahead 2018

    The world’s leading thinkers and policymakers examine what’s come apart in the past year, and anticipate what will define the year ahead.

    Order now