Friday, April 07, 2017

When you have a choice of bad options

There are some circumstances where whatever you do is going to be wrong: rather than choosing between options which include at least one good option your only choice is between terrible options and worse ones.

And when you are dealing with the middle east and with people like DAESH and the Assad regime, you are often forced to choose between terrible options.

There are people who blame everything which has gone wrong in Iraq on the fact that Britain and the US invaded the country and everything which has gone wrong in Syria on the fact that Britain and the US did not intervene. I have no doubt that some of those who just after Assad's latest chemical warfare atrocity were criticising the West for letting it happen and not doing anything about it, but will now be the first to criticise President Trump because he did something.

I fully understand the position of those who having seen Western intervention in Iraq go so horribly wrong, opposed Western intervention in Syria in 2013.

Maybe a Western intervention in Syria then would have been even worse than what has actually happened. We'll never know. It is certainly wrong to blame for the West for the deaths inflicted by others after countries like Britain decided not to intervene out of a far-from-unreasonable fear of causing another Iraq.

However, the decision not to intervene in Syria has been no more successful than the decision to intervene in Iraq was.

The moderate opponents of Assad, while not exactly easy to find, did exist in 2013, but they were the first people that the Russians and the Syrian regime targeted. Building a stable and democratic Syria now, or even a peaceful one, would be even harder than it would have been in 2013. And the decision not to send in Western military force did not mean Syria was spared external military intervention, only that it came from Russia instead.

At the moment I cannot see that a good Western strategy towards Syria exists, we are forced to choose between a menu of terrible options and worse ones.

If nothing else, President Trump's decision to use cruise missiles to hit the airfield from which Assad's forces launched a poison gas attack earlier in the week does re-establish the principle that if you use poison gas on civilians there will be consequences.

No comments: