Marc Lynch at Foreign Policy responds to the criticism that earlier US intervention in Syria would have prevented the hopeless bloodbath there:
Advocates of intervention frequently complain that the United States could have prevented this fiasco through earlier, more forceful action. This is easy to say, but almost certainly untrue. Last year, a wide range of serious analysts inside and outside the government, including me, looked carefully at a wide range of possible military steps: no-fly zones, safe areas, bombing campaigns, arming the opposition. None could in good faith conclude that these limited military measures would lead to a rapid end to the conflict. Far from avoiding today’s tragedy, U.S. military intervention would very likely have made things in Syria worse.
Critics of the Obama administration’s approach, such as Sen. John McCain, have taken to saying that all the things opponents of intervention warned of – militarization, tens of thousands of dead, inroads by al-Qaeda affiliates – have now come to pass. This is only partially true. The U.S. military is not bogged down in another Iraq-style quagmire, steadily slipping down the slope of intervention as each limited move fails to end the conflict. There is no Pottery Barn rule dictating that Americans must prepare for a thankless and violent occupation and reconstruction. It is of little comfort to Syrians, but for the American national interest this is not a small thing.
One consequence of intervention Lynch doesn’t emphasize here is the rather obvious fact that it would have continued the Iraq War legacy of breeding generations of anti-American sentiment and al-Qaeda extremism.
He also critiques the argument for sending arms directly to the rebels, which, given the nature of the rebel opposition now, very few people are actually arguing for anymore. One other thing I agree with Lynch on is that it might help mitigate the horror if Washington would finally pressure its Gulf allies to stop supporting even the most extremist of the Sunni rebel fighters.