There’s never been sort of a trigger moment.

May 2, 2013 § Leave a comment

CHIVERS: The United States finds itself in a pretty unenviable position. So did the Syrians. I mean, this war, when you look at it, could not have worse timing. It really couldn’t. It came sort of, if you will, into the public consciousness at the tail-end of the Arab Spring, after, you know, the intervention in Libya had gone not so well.

It came during, you know, it really rose in the, you know, in the public discourse and in terms of the application of violence, really accelerated in 2012, an election year in the United States where the electorate was exhausted by war financially. Emotionally exhausted by war. And had no interest in being involved in another one, or very little interest in being involved in another one.

It came, you know, later in the cycle, if you will, of the way the Arab Springs were playing out, and with very cunning savvy leadership in terms of calibrating the tactics of the war to what they thought that the West could tolerate. And by that I mean, you know, the Assad government did not do what the government or the Gadhafi family did in Libya, where it came out of the gates in Libya hard and fast with armored columns, you know, bearing down on Benghazi. You know, immediate use of attack jets, you know, dropping, you know, dumb bombs on the road outside of Benghazi right in front of the foreign reporters. Which kind of galvanized international will and gave it a sense of immediacy.

And, you know, what Gadhafi got for that was, you know, the U.N. Security Council resolution which authorized intervention. He got, you know, U.N. 1973. The Assad government seems to have looked at that and has realized that you don’t come out with everything at once. You spin this thing click by click or you move it like a dimmer on your wall. You brighten the lights a little bit at a time.

And so you start with arrests and batons and you move to bullets, and from bullets, you know, you move to the army being involved. And you get the mortars, you get the 107 millimeter rockets. And then you gradually move up to artillery. And then you escalate a little bit by rolling out your air force. But when you roll out your air force, you start with helicopters. You don’t go right to jets.

They didn’t go to – you know, they didn’t start using their attack jets against the towns until last summer. And then you go to, from there, to ballistic missiles. And now perhaps to chemical weapons, which would be the last piece, you know, the last arrow, if you will, left in the quiver. And if you follow this sort of boil the frog slowly policy, you sort of, you know, sensitize your political opponents outside of the country.

The West has watched this step by step and not really taken action beyond rhetorical action. And the Syrian government knows that. And they’ve sort of escalated the ante so slowly, so methodically, so smartly, that they’ve almost paralyzed the West. And so the West now finds itself in this position where it’s tolerated all of these things. There’s never been sort of a trigger moment.

And it’s got a population, you know, in our case in the United States, that seems to not want to be involved, that there aren’t a lot of good options. There aren’t a lot of clear paths. And even if there were, it’s not clear what you would do to solve this. I mean I don’t, you know, the West may be able to guide this conflict a little bit, certainly cannot control it.


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