Does Wolfowitz Actually Believe US Proxy War in Syria Will Bring Democracy?
Paul Wolfowitz, sort of the Don of neoconservatism, still believes US aggression in the Middle East can proliferate democracy:
Wolfowitz just lets the question about post-war chaos and sectarianism wash over him. Iraq and Syria are different, he says. Actually, they’re quite similar.The sectarian make-up of the country is similar, the fact that Sunni extremists have swarmed into the country to exploit the conflict is similar to what happened in Iraq. The regime is a secular-nationalist, Shiite-minority Baathist dictatorship, whereas Iraq had a secular-nationalist, Sunni-minority Baathist dictatorship. One difference is that there was some structure of potential leadership, however nefarious, in Iraq’s opposition, post-Saddam. In Syria, that is not the case. But this difference only makes a descent into bloody sectarian civil war more likely, not less. And his comment about there not being US forces on the ground – well, whoop-dee-doo, but doesn’t this argument contradict the neoconservative claim that a surge in US forces was the policy which stabilized the civil war?
The Washington Post reports on his remarks:
“Syria is going to be governed by Syrians, and I don’t see why people are so comfortable saying we shouldn’t be arming them, but it’s okay for Islamic, Islamist governments in the Persian Gulf that don’t share our objectives — it’s okay for them to be arming them,” said Wolfowitz, alluding to reports that Iran continues to send arms to Syria.
“I think trying to shape the political agenda of that future Syrian government is very important,” he said.
Uh, I think the Post got this all wrong. It’s pretty clear to me that Wolfowitz was not referring to Iran’s support of the Assad regime. Instead, he seems to be saying that we should be arming the Syrian rebels to beat the Saudis and the Qataris to the punch and “shape the political agenda of that future Syria” towards democracy as opposed to Sunni monarchy, or some satellite regime thereof. I think Wolfowitz is the honest type of neoconservative interventionist. It seems he truly does believe we should be going to war in the Middle East to export democracy, as opposed to installing successor regimes equally horrible as their predecessors, just more in line with Washington’s demands. This honesty (read: stupidity) allows him to criticize the venerable US allies in Saudi Arabia the Gulf states, with whom Washington is cooperating to support the rebel militias. Elected officials still refuse to do so, leading to contradictions like the one pointed out by Robert Fisk yesterday:
President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, say they want a democracy in Syria. But Qatar is an autocracy and Saudi Arabia is among the most pernicious of caliphate-kingly-dictatorships in the Arab world. Rulers of both states inherit power from their families – just as Bashar has done – and Saudi Arabia is an ally of the Salafist-Wahabi rebels in Syria, just as it was the most fervent supporter of the medieval Taliban during Afghanistan’s dark ages.
Even on his own terms, experts disagree with Wolfowitz (not that it matters to his impenetrable dogmatism). For one thing, the militias he is arguing for sending weapons to are largely anathema to “democracy.” UN rights chief Navi Pillay last month condemned the continued flow of weapons from foreign powers to both sides in the Syrian conflict. “The ongoing provision of arms to the Syrian government and to its opponents feeds additional violence,” she said. “Any further militarization of the conflict must be avoided at all costs.”
Marc Lynch, a Middle East expert at George Washington University who has actually consulted the Obama administration on the issue, agrees that arming the rebels lacks foresight and will worsen the conflict.
A recent study out of Brandeis University concluded “the distillation of historical experience with civil war and insurgency, along with a sober reckoning of conditions on the ground in Syria, make clear” that arming the rebels is “likely to amplify the harm that it seeks to eliminate by prolonging a hurting stalemate.”