Thursday, December 06, 2012

Time to show fingerprints on Syria issues

From NYTimes:

The Obama administration secretly gave its blessing to arms shipments to Libyan rebels from Qatar last year, but American officials later grew alarmed as evidence grew that Qatar was turning some of the weapons over to Islamic militants, according to United States officials and foreign diplomats.... 
The experience in Libya has taken on new urgency as the administration considers whether to play a direct role in arming rebels in Syria, where weapons are flowing in from Qatar and other countries.

The Obama administration did not initially raise objections when Qatar began shipping arms to opposition groups in Syria, even if it did not offer encouragement, according to current and former administration officials. But they said the United States has growing concerns that, just as in Libya, the Qataris are equipping some of the wrong militants....  
Relying on surrogates allows the United States to keep its fingerprints off operations, but also means they may play out in ways that conflict with American interests....

“....When you have an intermediary, you are going to lose control.”
The obvious reaction is either stop getting involved or stop worrying about showing your fingerprints. I'll go for Door #2.  I supported making the threat of limited military involvement in February and more actual support for the opposition in July, and I think either case would have shortened the time frame of the civil war and improved a future transition.  I remain concerned about ethnic massacres and religious instability in the post-Assad future.  Supporting groups that are less likely to do this, and especially getting Alawite opposition groups into a prominent position in the opposition military forces, could be crucial for the country's future.  Unfortunately, I think the war might still grind for months more, giving time for this option to work out.

For my less interventionist friends, I'll just mention that until recently I hadn't been too opposed to the drone war in Pakistan overall as a legitimate function of self-defense against Al Qaeda, but I'm reconsidering.  Al Qaeda in Pakistan isn't that big of a threat, while Pakistan itself desperately needs stability.  Pakistan is simply more important, and the drone strikes aren't helping.  Not sure if I'd completely eliminate them, but the go/no go decisionmaking needs to change.