Give credit for seizing on Syria lucky break
By Fareed Zakaria
For at least a year, President Barack Obama’s foreign policy towards Syria had been confused, poorly conceived, and badly executed. But despite all that, the administration deserves credit for changing course, acting fast, and seizing on a lucky break. The agreement forged by John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, is just the first step, of course. The Syrian government has to cooperate, but it will face pressure from Moscow to do so.
On hearing of the agreement, some have reacted with dismay. This agreement does not remove Bashar al-Assad from power, it does nothing to stop his regime in its brutal repression, it does nothing to end the humanitarian tragedy in that country.
It’s true that the agreement is not designed to stop the warfare and suffering in Syria. But what exactly would do that? Do we know that a U.S. strategy, a military intervention to topple the dictator and change the regime, would actually end the human suffering in that country?
Let’s recall a recent example, when America ousted a dictator and changed the regime, and believed that peace and liberty and prosperity would flourish. It was in Iraq, of course, and what happened was very different.
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The deposed regime and its supporters fought back fiercely, the sectarian lines of the Iraqi society turned into battle lines, Islamic militants – including al Qaeda poured into the country, often funded by neighboring countries. The result was a ten year civil war with at minimum 130,000 (and potentially more than 250,000), and over 1.5 million refugees – most of whom have not come back – and a deeply divided and unstable country. From a humanitarian point of view, American intervention and regime change substantially worsened the humanitarian nightmare of Iraq.