Washington Think Tanks Beating the Drums of War Against Syria

With Congress in recess until December, President Obama will have another two months to battle the so called “Islamic State” with little oversight.

WASHINGTON, October 17 (RIA Novosti) — With Congress in recess until December, President Obama will have another two months to battle the so-called “Islamic State” with little oversight. When Congress returns, they will be greeted with analysis from think tanks, ranging from unrealistic to disproven, but ultimately united in a singular desire to remove the Syrian government which has declined serving the American interest.

On October 14, Obama met with 21 military chiefs from Middle East nations in Washington to discuss how to proceed, as the joint air campaign is having little success in stopping the “Islamic State from controlling large swaths of territory.

Despite Congress’s absence, Washington’s defense-oriented think tanks have remained hard at work churning out justifications for war without end. While there are minor disagreements across the political spectrum on whether to send American troops or just employ, arm, train and deploy local troops, everyone in Washington agrees that containing IS is the first step towards regime change in Syria and destabilization in Iran.

On the right, Frederick Kagan, a senior fellow of the American Enterprise Institute, and his wife Kimberly Kagan, President of the Institute for the Study of War, took to the Los Angeles Times on October 6 to call for deploying American troops: “After 50 days of obvious failure, it's time to consider an approach that might work: get American special forces on the ground with the Sunni Arabs themselves.” It should be noted that Frederick’s brother Robert Kagan is married to the infamous Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland.

Washington’s other major conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation, similarly declared on October 6 that, “unwillingness to put boots on the ground shows a lack of commitment.”

“There are other challenges specific to Syria,” Heritage’s Dr. Ted Bromund warns, “the regional politics are so complicated and broken, it will be hard for the United States to make any strategy work, no matter who we support and what we bomb.” Despite this, Bromund insists that failure to send additional American troops for the “long war” ahead will have dangerous consequences.

Frederick Hof, who served as Obama’s Special Advisor for Transition in Syria, is now Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council, where he wrote on October 10 an article lamenting the lack of a strategy for regime change in Syria, noting that “wishing and hoping for political transition negotiations to materialize is not a strategy.”

After reiterating the desire for regime change, he notes that, “Assad is, in fact, the main reason ISIS was able to grow in Syria and sweep to the gates of Baghdad,” who is merely a willing client of Iran’s strategy of arming Hezbollah to “menace Israel with rockets and missiles.”

His solutions include grounding Syria’s air force with a no-fly zone, pushing Turkey to create a buffer zone on their Syrian border, allowing Syrian nationalist opposition parties to assist with military plans, resupplying those nationalist fighters, and encouraging the Syrian National Congress and Interim Government to replace Assad.

The Center for New American Security, traditionally cited by pro-intervention Democrats, published a Syria recommendation on September 9, when Dr. Marc Lynch stated, “U.S. airstrikes offer no plausible path to political or strategic success.” Instead, he wants Obama to ensure Assad’s enemies inside Syria that it is in their interest to join with Assad to fight IS, in the hopes of securing a longer-term cease-fire with the government, combined with humanitarian and political efforts to “encourage the emergence of a politically legitimate and more effectively unified opposition.”

Another major centrist interventionist think tank, The Brookings Institute, has supported regime change in Syria since January 2014. More recently, co-director of their Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, Michael O’Hanlon, who was an impetus of Democratic support for the 2003 Iraq invasion, suggested that Obama must “convince Iran that Assad is finished.”

Once the Iranians decide to trust the Americans more than their ally in Damascus, “they will have a strong incentive to participate in a new political process and press the Alawi community to do the same as the only way to preserve their safety and their role in a new Syrian political process.”

When members of Congress do return to debate the merits of Obama’s strategy and whether or not to allow a war without end in the Middle East, they will be greeted with analysis from the think tanks which range from unrealistic to disproven, but are united in a desire to remove the Syrian government that declines serving the American interest.


Daniel Zubov (United States)

October 17, 2014

Center for International Journalism and Research, “Rossiya Segodnya”


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