Keller claims that “we have a genuine, imperiled national interest, not just a fabricated one,” and he is referring to the danger of a failed state serving as a haven for terrorists, but all of the proposed options for intervention involve hastening the failure of the Syrian state and aiding in the empowerment of jihadist groups. If the U.S. has an interest in preventing state failure in Syria, that is a reason to avoid intensifying and prolonging the conflict by backing the opposition.
Keller completely ignores his second lesson later in the op-ed when he mentions chemical weapons use, which causes him to overlook some new information that ought to make a difference in his thinking. According to reports over the weekend, U.N. investigators have determined that sarin may have been used by anti-regime forces. It’s possible that the investigators have it wrong, but it makes absolutely no sense for the U.S. to lend support to forces that are willing to use chemical weapons.
Max Fisher scrutinizes the Sarin reports at length. In one way, Larison agrees with Keller that “Syria is not Iraq”:
Unlike Iraq, there would be no fig leaf of a Security Council resolution that hawks could hide behind to defend the war, and there would likely be even less multilateral support for a Syrian war than there was for the invasion of Iraq.
Later, Larison sets his sights on another liberal hawk:
James Rubin demands that the U.S. ensnare itself in Syria’s conflict, and then has the gall to say this:
Second, it is astonishing to hear so much hand-wringing about the possibility of America entering another Middle Eastern war. That’s not going to happen; even the most hawkish of hawks are not proposing some sort of U.S. invasion.
Rubin is being disingenuous here, since even the measures that he calls for would require the U.S. to commit acts of war against the Syrian government. Of course the U.S. might be entering another war in the region. That is what Syria hawks want the U.S. to do, and it is absurd to claim otherwise.
Syria hawks are not yet proposing an invasion, because they know as well as anyone that there is no political support for that in the U.S. or in any other country. That doesn’t mean that an invasion or the preparation for an invasion won’t happen if the U.S. starts using force in Syria. The first thing to remember about all interventionist arguments is that they always minimize the costs and risks at the beginning while exaggerating the danger of “inaction.” When an interventionist dismisses the idea that ground forces may be necessary to achieve the goals he wants, he is usually trying to sell the audience on a bad policy that he knows the audience would reject if they were confronted with the full costs of “action.”
My thoughts on the matter here.