Comment: Published last June, is this short article eerily prescient, or a summarized Washington playbook for Syria? Regardless, it's clear that Russia's bold action against an unconscionable situation has thrown those smug plans into disarray. Still it's a useful window into neocon "thinking".

syrian militants
U.S. policy towards Syria since the Arab spring uprisings of 2011 has been a litany of miscalculation, frustration, and tragedy for the people of that ill-fated land. The ascendance of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as the major element of the opposition to the Bashar al-Assad regime may not amount to an imminent threat to American security; indeed, very few Americans have died to date at the hands of ISIL or affiliates. But ISIL's rise does place at much greater risk the security of Iraq, the future of Syria itself, and the stability of Lebanon and Jordan. It could jeopardize the safety of American citizens as well, given the possibility of attacks by "lone wolves" inspired in their western home by ISIL propaganda, or by westerners returning from the Syrian jihad to carry out attacks at home. Massacres on a par with the Charlie Hebdo tragedy, or worse, could easily occur in the United States. The potency of the al-Nusra organization, al Qaeda's loyal affiliate, within the Syrian opposition is also of considerable concern.

Comment: Of course there have been few American casualties, except when expedient, such as Hillary's shameful handling of Benghazi, where the U.S. ambassador was killed, along with staff members. ISIL/ISIS has far more utility as a bogeyman to hypnotize the American public.

This paper makes a case for a new approach to Syria that attempts to bring ends and means more realistically into balance. It also seeks to end the Hobson's choice currently confronting American policymakers, whereby they can neither attempt to unseat President Assad in any concerted way (because doing so would clear the path for ISIL), nor tolerate him as a future leader of the country (because of the abominations he has committed, and because any such policy would bring the United States into direct disagreement with almost all of its regional allies). The new approach would seek to break the problem down in a number of localized components of the country, pursuing regional stopgap solutions while envisioning ultimately a more confederal Syria made up of autonomous zones rather than being ruled by a strong central government. It also proposes a path to an intensified train and equip program.

Comment: This paper naturally ignores that the U.S. is responsible for the rise of ISIS, and that the anti-Assad propaganda was cooked up as a means to justify taking him out. Whatever human rights abuses the Syrian military may have carried out have been in the context of battling a foreign invasion of terrorists.

Small autonomous zones kept at each others' throats is the psychopath's tried-and-true method of gaining and retaining control over a country. The problem is, those regions have a way of slipping the leash. Also it takes no account of the suffering of ordinary citizens. Putin is correct in saying that a strong government that can provide for its people is the only way to bring peace to Syria.

Once that program had generated a critical mass of fighters in training locations abroad, it would move to a next stage. Coupled with a U.S. willingness, in collaboration with regional partners, to help defend local safe areas using American airpower as well as special forces support once circumstances are conducive, the Syrian opposition fighters would then establish safe zones in Syria that they would seek to expand and solidify. The safe zones would also be used to accelerate recruiting and training of additional opposition fighters who could live in, and help protect, their communities while going through basic training. They would, in addition, be locations where humanitarian relief could be provided to needy populations, and local governance structures developed.

Comment: How's that one been going for you, America? Notice that this is framed in 'humanitarian' language, when what it amounts to is creating large zones of civilians to use as human shields, thus providing cover for American bombs. Russia is there to protect the Syrian people (and their government) from terrorists. The U.S. is not.

The strategy would begin by establishing one or two zones in relatively promising locations, such as the Kurdish northeast and perhaps in the country's south near Jordan, to see how well the concept could work and how fast momentum could be built up. Over time, more might be created, if possible. Ultimately, and ideally, some of the safe zones might merge together as key elements in a future confederal arrangement for the Syrian state. Assad, ISIL, and al-Nusra could have no role in such a future state, but for now, American policymakers could otherwise remain agnostic about the future character and governing structures of such an entity.

Comment: Yep, for now, ISIL and al-Nusra fulfil a purpose for the U.S.: destabilizing the country and getting rid of Assad. When has the U.S. ever shied away from working with terrorists to achieve their goals?