Conservative critics of U.S. intervention in Syria charge that “there are no good options.” We face a a choice between a thuggish dictator (Assad) and al-Qaeda-affiliated rebels. So, they argue, the best thing we can do is simply stay out of the conflict altogether.
Here’s why they’re wrong: First, it is simply not true that the Syrian rebels are all Islamists and Jihadists. Some are, of course, but not all.
The Syrian uprising, in fact, “began as a popular resistance against autocracy,” reports the Institute for the Study of War. Yet, because of American passivity and inaction, foreign fighters and jihadists have poured into the country and made a bad situation even worse and more complex.
The answer to this problem, obviously, is not more of the same — more American passivity and inaction The answer, instead, is a new policy of American engagement, designed to identify and strengthen the more moderate and pro-Western elements of the opposition.
This is important, because Syria and the Middle East are now in the early stages of an historic tumult, which will last decades and probably intensify over time. This tumult can turn the region in either a positive or a negative direction. It can threaten us or it can comfort us. Thus we ignore it at our peril.
The only wise and acceptable thing to do, then, is to try and shape this tumult so that it does not threaten our interests or our people. The alternative is to risk another 9/11 terrorist attack. For this reason, non-intervention in Syria and the Middle East is not an option; it’s a risk and a danger.
Of course, this isn’t something the politicians and the public want to hear, but it’s what they need to hear. The world is too small now, and the risk too great, to pretend otherwise.