Missile Strikes Might Only Enable the Assad Regime

CIA map of Syria. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

CIA map of Syria. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

At the Atlantic, James Fallows presents a useful overview of Syria by long-time foreign-policy analyst William Polk. One passage – which can be filed under Unforeseen Side Effects – jumped out at us.

Finally, if the missile attacks do succeed in “degrading” the Syrian government, [the Assad regime] may read the signs as indicating that fighting the war is acceptable so long as chemical weapons are not employed. They may regard it as a sort of license to go ahead in this wasting war.   Thus, the action will have accomplished little. 

Which could result in this scenario, courtesy of Jonathan Landay for McClatchy.

Washington could be dragged deeper into the conflict as a defiant Assad – bolstered by unwavering support from Russia and Iran – intensifies offensives to regain lost ground. More civilian deaths could make already long-shot prospects for peace talks even more remote while driving destabilizing flows of refugees – now estimated at 5,000 per day – into adjacent Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

In other words, it’s naïve to think that, if subjected to missile strikes, Assad won’t escalate – and we, as well.