Blogs: Paul Pillar

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The Itch to Escalate the Syrian Civil War

Paul Pillar

The biggest and most fundamental shortcoming in Ross and Tabler's piece is that it fails to address exactly where U.S. interests do and don't lie in Syria. Ill consequences emanating from Syria in the form of refugees, instability, or terrorism are consequences of the war itself, not of any particular political coloration of the government in Damascus. The Assads, father and then son, have been in power there for 46 years. It would be hard to make a case that whether an Assad regime lives or dies is critical to U.S. interests. It would be all the harder when taking into account the current alternatives, or lack of alternatives.

The Syrian war will eventually end with some kind of exhaustion-inspired compromise, and maybe even just a shaky and essentially temporary one such as the Taif accord regarding Lebanon or the Dayton agreement concerning Bosnia. There probably is realization of that already in all of the capitals concerned. Getting even to the point of a shaky agreement will not be a matter of simply pressuring or imposing costs on one side. And getting there will require the positive cooperation of Russia and Iran. Neither of those allies of Assad is going to be induced by U.S. air power to pin the label of “loser” on itself and slink away from Syria in embarrassment.

Image: An F-22 Raptor performs an aerial maneuver during the AirPower over Hampton Roads Open House at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., April 24, 2016. The Raptor, a critical component of the Global Strike Task Force, is designed to rapidly project air dominance and defeat threats attempting to deny access to the nation's military services. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Kayla Newman)

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The War Candidates

Paul Pillar

The biggest and most fundamental shortcoming in Ross and Tabler's piece is that it fails to address exactly where U.S. interests do and don't lie in Syria. Ill consequences emanating from Syria in the form of refugees, instability, or terrorism are consequences of the war itself, not of any particular political coloration of the government in Damascus. The Assads, father and then son, have been in power there for 46 years. It would be hard to make a case that whether an Assad regime lives or dies is critical to U.S. interests. It would be all the harder when taking into account the current alternatives, or lack of alternatives.

The Syrian war will eventually end with some kind of exhaustion-inspired compromise, and maybe even just a shaky and essentially temporary one such as the Taif accord regarding Lebanon or the Dayton agreement concerning Bosnia. There probably is realization of that already in all of the capitals concerned. Getting even to the point of a shaky agreement will not be a matter of simply pressuring or imposing costs on one side. And getting there will require the positive cooperation of Russia and Iran. Neither of those allies of Assad is going to be induced by U.S. air power to pin the label of “loser” on itself and slink away from Syria in embarrassment.

Image: An F-22 Raptor performs an aerial maneuver during the AirPower over Hampton Roads Open House at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., April 24, 2016. The Raptor, a critical component of the Global Strike Task Force, is designed to rapidly project air dominance and defeat threats attempting to deny access to the nation's military services. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Kayla Newman)

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