Spinning plates can get confusing. For months, the war hawks in Washington have been vigorously calling for an intervention in Syria. Depending on the direction the wind was blowing that day, they might have been arguing for intervention to stop the bloodshed, or they might have been saying war was necessary to eliminate Assad and isolate Iran. You might have heard them pushing for a no-fly zone, and when they heard from the experts that this would dramatically worsen the situation, they might have retreated to simply arming the rebels. When they heard the rebels committed serious crimes and have ties to al-Qaeda and other extremists, they vacillated between calling them freedom fighters and arguing still for arming the opposition – just to do it carefully.
Now, the pro-war crowd is folding in on themselves again. Now we’re supposed to open up a second war in Syria to fight al-Qaeda. Seth Jones in the Wall Street Journal:
The United States and its allies should consider opening a second front in the Syrian war. In addition to helping end Bashar Assad’s rule, there is a growing need to conduct a covert campaign against al Qaeda and other extremist groups gaining a presence in the country.
…Al Qaeda’s presence appears to be growing in several cities, especially Aleppo, Damascus, Deraa and Idlib, where the group has established cells. Its leadership structure is headed by Abu Muhammad al-Julani, a veteran jihadist.
…The danger is clear. Assuming Assad’s regime eventually collapses, a robust al Qaeda presence will undermine transition efforts and pose a major threat to regional stability.
Well then genius, it might have been good not to have initiated regime change, no? US support for the rebel militias has emboldened the opposition, deepened the conflict, and allowed extremist insurgents to destabilize the Assad regime. Jones admits that one thing explaining al-Qaeda’s rise in Syria is “the draw of a new jihad—smack in the middle of the Arab world.” Like in Iraq, the US has helped create an al-Qaeda presence in Syria, which is now justifying even more military intervention.
Jones’s position is pitifully confused. Which policy is the US supposed to pursue in Syria – supporting the rebels in a proxy war against Assad, or fighting the rebels and eliminating the main threat to Assad’s regime? This isn’t quantum mechanics; we can’t exist in two different realities at once. Or are we just supposed to take any excuse to intervene at face value?
Jones is also contradictory: He admits al-Qaeda fighters are swarming to Syria because of the draw of jihad. Yet, he wants to “launch a covert campaign to ramp up intelligence-collection efforts against al Qaeda, capture or kill its senior leaders, and undermine its legitimacy.” Right, because nothing snuffs out al-Qaeda like an unprovoked US war in the Middle East.