Saturday, August 05, 2006

One scary thought -- UPDATED

Josh Landis points to a NT Times piece with a title that says it all: To Help Israel, Help Syria.

Politics does indeed make for strange bedfellows.

I'm reminded of one of my favorite lines from the movies. I don't recall the exact words, but I remember the context. At a critical moment in War Games when Matthew Broderick's character who started it all wants to take over a command keyboard, the frustrated military man says "Let the kid in there. He can't do any worse than you guys. Hell, I'd piss on a sparkplug if I thought it'd do any good."

Already the comments are infested with remarks trying to beat him up. He is accused, for example, of "scouring the internet" for places to support his views by someone who apparently didn't notice that the link was to -- d'oh -- the New York Times.

Unlike in Iran, with which the United States does not have diplomatic relations, there is an American Embassy in Damascus that can coordinate assistance to Syria’s reformers. Given the mistrust between the two governments, however, America’s vibrant private sector should lead the way. It can do this by sharing its expertise in building a strong and transparent market economy.

This would increase American credibility in Syria without violating American sanctions, which ban American exports, certain banking transactions and direct flights to Syria, but not the exchange of knowledge. If Damascus demonstrates its ability to rein in and disarm Hezbollah, American economic aid could follow.

Assad, like his totalitarian brothers down in Sunni-land (Syria is 78% Sunni), may be an SOB, but I don't recall any stories about his dropping people into shredders or conducting genocidal campaigns against opponents. (Murders here and there, maybe, but not genocide.) (I don't think...)

If the Sunni-Shiite enmity is even half what it appears to be, the threads connecting Iran to Southern Lebanon via Syria are thin, indeed. Syria even has Druze, which I gather are something like Muslim Unitarians. I never thought I would bend to considering such a loose metric, but with chaos the alternative, order of any kind is looking better all the time. A pause might help. Even drunks need time to sober up before you can move to something constructive.

Update a few hours later...

Well, maybe not.

Anton Efendi at Across the Bay cites David Schenker in teh Weekly Standard who says Been There, Done That.

This policy prescription is ill-advised and poorly timed. Moreover, the strategy was tried and failed during President Bush's first administration. Washington engaged Syria in a robust fashion from 2001 through the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005, sending no less than five senior-level U.S. delegations to cajole Bashar Assad to change his unhelpful behavior. Discussions during this period focused on Iraq--in particular on Syria's role in destabilizing the newly liberated country--but also touched on Syrian interference in Lebanon, provision of safe haven to Palestinian terrorist groups, and ongoing support for Hezbollah.

That's the official line. So much for diplomatic flow charts. I'll bet with the right kind of incentives some capitalist fool might step in where policy angels fear to tread.

Can't Damascus use a Wal-mart? (Or do they already have one?) They're already doing their homework!

In fact, they already started....oops!

No comments: