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Dr. Charles G. Cogan Headshot

Don't Just Do Something, Stand There!

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The current situation in Syria takes me back to the 1950's and the slogan that was spread in order to try and slow down the hyperactive Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, who wanted to "rollback" the Soviet Union from its World War II conquests: Don't Just Do Something, Stand There!
The situation in Syria today is also problematic. The Sunni uprising against the Bashar al Asad regime is spearheaded by bad guys -- the al-Nusra Front, which has declared its affiilation with another Sunni organization, al-Qaeda. For the U.S. to join in and help overthrow the Bashar regime would not necessarily leave the good guys, led by General Idris, in power. They are in the minority among the rebels in terms of numbers and guns and fighting capability
What to do? To declare a no-fly zone or conduct air strikes would clearly pit the United States against the Bashar regime and in favor of the Sunni rebels and the many jihadi groups that are among them.
More importantly, we don't know how things would develop. What would be the reaction of Iran? Of Russia? Of Hizballah in Lebanon? Of the Maliki regime in Iraq? So far, the United States has kept out of things but for propaganda and minor clandestine arms support to the rebel side. Additionally, there is also the prospect of igniting a wider regional conflict, possibly also involving Israel, if the United States steps in.
Our rather too-straight President last year commited himself to doing something if the Bashar regime used poison gas against the rebels. Obviously he is now reluctant to act on these words and involve the United States in yet another war in the Muslim world.
Perhaps we should heed the words of Prince Talleyrand, a rather more guileful figure than our current President: "Il est urgent d'attendre" ("it is urgent to wait").

The current situation in Syria takes me back to the 1950's and the slogan that was spread in order to try and slow down the hyperactive Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, who wanted to "rollback" the Soviet Union from its World War II conquests: Don't Just Do Something, Stand There!
The situation in Syria today is also problematic. The Sunni uprising against the Bashar al Asad regime is spearheaded by bad guys -- the al-Nusra Front, which has declared its affiilation with another Sunni organization, al-Qaeda. For the U.S. to join in and help overthrow the Bashar regime would not necessarily leave the good guys, led by General Idris, in power. They are in the minority among the rebels in terms of numbers and guns and fighting capability
What to do? To declare a no-fly zone or conduct air strikes would clearly pit the United States against the Bashar regime and in favor of the Sunni rebels and the many jihadi groups that are among them.
More importantly, we don't know how things would develop. What would be the reaction of Iran? Of Russia? Of Hizballah in Lebanon? Of the Maliki regime in Iraq? So far, the United States has kept out of things but for propaganda and minor clandestine arms support to the rebel side. Additionally, there is also the prospect of igniting a wider regional conflict, possibly also involving Israel, if the United States steps in.
Our rather too-straight President last year commited himself to doing something if the Bashar regime used poison gas against the rebels. Obviously he is now reluctant to act on these words and involve the United States in yet another war in the Muslim world.
Perhaps we should heed the words of Prince Talleyrand, a rather more guileful figure than our current President: "Il est urgent d'attendre" ("it is urgent to wait").