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Hussein Ibish

Syria is not Iraq

By moving to arm Syrian rebels, the US isn't risking another Middle East quagmire

dumayna

With the United States announcing it will finally begin to provide direct support to some Syrians, many Americans across the political spectrum are deeply worried about the prospect of another Middle Eastern quagmire. It's hard to overstate how traumatized the American public was by the catastrophic miscalculation in Iraq.

 

But Syria is not Iraq. The American involvement will not be a repetition of the Iraq fiasco, it will be a completely different kind of engagement and in a totally different context. Here's why:

 

1) The situation on the ground is completely different. There is an ongoing, major civil war between the government and opposition, and also battles between rival opposition groups (generally pitting patriotic resistance forces against Salafist-Jihadist extremists). There was no ongoing war in Iraq before the American invasion. This is not a situation we have created. It is one we can either deal with or ignore at our peril.

 

2) The regional atmosphere is completely different. There was a virtual unanimity in the Arab world in opposition to the invasion of Iraq. Now, to the contrary, virtually the entire Sunni Arab world, along with Turkey and others, are desperately looking for American leadership on the Syria question. Outrage at any proactive American backing of Syrian rebels will be restricted almost entirely to Shiite and other sectarian minority groups. The overwhelming regional majority will either welcome or tolerate it.

 

3) The international strategic context is completely different. The United States had virtually no support for the invasion of Iraq, which was inexplicable, indefensible, and eminently avoidable. Not only will a significant intervention in Syria be largely welcomed by many of those that opposed the invasion of Iraq, it has a clear strategic imperative, goals and context. The survival of the Bashar al-Assad dictatorship is crucial to the future of Iran's hope for regional hegemony, and essential for the survival of Hezbollah as a highly effective subnational fighting force.

 

Should the Damascus regime survive in the long run, Iran's regional sphere of influence also will survive. And the next stage would then be to attempt to expand it, probably in the direction of the Persian Gulf. This is also a proxy confrontation with a newly-assertive Russian international posture which, again, the United States can ill-afford to lose. So while the aims of the Iraq war were always mysterious, the policy imperative in insuring that, at a minimum, the Assad regime does not reestablish its authority throughout the country is very clear.

 

4) The nature of the intervention will be completely different. What is being considered now, as implied by Obama administration officials, will be insufficient but the likelihood and desirability of "mission creep" is clear. Once the United States gets involved directly in the Syrian conflict, it will have a much stronger stake in its outcome and a greater ability to shape the nature of the groups defining the opposition. The Iraq war was about unilaterally engineered American regime change. The intervention in Syria will be about helping Syrians themselves ensure regime change on their own or come to the point where they can actually negotiate a new post-dictatorship modus vivendi.

 

Rather than a long-term occupation, as in Iraq, this will involve major aid to specific rebel groups, including arms and other materiel intelligence, command-and-control assistance, no-fly zones, and possibly a real confrontation with the Syrian Air Force and air defenses. But what it will not mean is American "boots on the ground." As in Libya, the 'Pottery Barn' rules ("you break it, you own it") will and should not apply in Syria. We can help Syrians get out of the mess they are in, but we cannot and should not dictate their future.

 

5) There will, therefore, be no quagmire, no massive Arab world backlash, and no new battleground for al-Qaeda to fight Americans (though our own inactivity has already allowed them to use Syria as a new battleground anyway, so our intervention on behalf of other groups is likely to only undermine, rather than promote that threat).

 

6) There are risks, but nothing like the obvious disaster - indeed trap - that awaited us in Iraq. The Syrian Air Force and air defenses, though probably overrated, are not as impotent as Libya's, and there's a real possibility of losing some aircraft and personnel. The Syrian regime, Hezbollah, Iran, and others might try to retaliate. Tensions will flare with Russia. But the idea that a limited, arm's-length, Libya-style intervention in the Syrian calamity will be the Iraq fiasco revisited fails to take into consideration the obvious distinctions between the two circumstances.

 

Sometimes avoiding what's necessary with insufficient and risk-averse measures can be almost as damaging as foolish, overweening hubris. American inaction on Syria has become totally untenable. The new policy, for all its flaws, is no "Iraq War, Part II." 

Syrian troops take control over the village of Dumayna, located close to Qusayr in the strategic Homs province. (AFP photo)

"We can help Syrians get out of the mess they are in, but we cannot and should not dictate their future."

  • Fenrir | No God but (...)

    Hannibull: your information is lies and completely fraudulent. The Syrian regime has been doing the right things and unlike your Zionist FSA are not stupid enough to create terror just for terror's sake. They lost the war but hell, they're Arabs. The military leadership is atrocious and and the training is terribly bad. Don't try to lay blame to Syria's intervention in the Lebanese Civil War bub. Things were just like they are now, spilling over I into territories not of their own. Syria never burned down anything. If they played a significant roll in politics, I'll give you that, but that's all I give you Bull Boy.

    June 24, 2013

  • Hanibaal-Atheos

    Initially, I thought I was reading FENTIZI, but I now stand corrected. In any case, FENDWEEB or whatever your name is, Assad has never been to the Golan Heights since 1973 when he was defeated like a dog and signed a truce with Israel. He and his father spent most of the past 40 years PROTECTING ISRAEL's FLANK on the Golan, even when Israel annexed - not just occupied, but annexed - the Golan. On the other hand, they burned Lebanon to the ground pretending to want to liberate the Shebaa Farms. I doubt very much that Assad will ever see the Golan. He will either be hanging upside down from some Damascus balcony, or he will be cowering in a hole in the ground in Qerdaha, just like his Baathist buddy Saddam...

    June 23, 2013

  • Fenrir | No God but (...)

    It's Fenrir, not Fenriri. And where did you get the notion that I wanted the war to go on dummy? Are you just making things up as you go along? I want Assad to win and finish the terrorists off then continue on to the Golan Heights and live happily ever after. Don't put words in my mouth punk! God.bless the Syrian Arab Army to Victory!

    June 22, 2013

  • GOTC

    Hanibaal should be a columnist. He is spot on.

    June 21, 2013

  • Hanibaal-Atheos

    Therefore, FENRIRI, as an apologist of Hezbollah and Iran, you do want the Syrian war to go on and on, just like the American administration. Does that make you an Israeli agent? a puppet of the US? an enemy of the Islamic Umma? A traitor to your Arab cause? A zionist Mossad agent? I smell stench in your hole-poked arguments, but I do agree with you. Let the Syrian bloodbath go on forever, let the Sunnis and Shiites kill each other ad infinitum. As an observer of the torment of Lebanon by traitor Arabs and Muslims, nothing beats watching my own enemies at each other's throats. Let the show go on and let the fat lady FENRIRI continue to sing.

    June 21, 2013

  • Fenrir | No God but (...)

    Nice try bub, but in the end Syria will turn into just as much of a mass of destruction if not more than what Iraq is. The facts leading to it may be different but as much as you try to lie and convince yourself that it will be different, the writing is already on the wall, and the blood is spilled. Iraq will seem like Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory compared to what will go on in Syria. Let's face it bub, the hatred is much higher and is boiling point has been reached.

    June 21, 2013

  • Beiruti

    So you see, I think that Russia and the US are playing the same Real Politik game here with the Syrian Civil War. The objective of the international players is, I think, nothing more than to keep the Syrian pot boiling long enough for Russia to finish its South Stream pipeline before Nubicco can be completed thus killing Nubicco and the threat it poses to Russia's near monopoly for supplying natural gas to Europe. And for the US, to keep the pot boiling long enough to get the LNG infrastructure in place for shipments of US natural gas to Europe. The main competitors to the US and Russia for meeting this supply are Iran and Qatar, who find themselves adversaries in the Syrian Civil War, oddly enough. While they are both occupied with that war, with the US helping Qatar and Russia helping Iran, both Iran and Qatar are economically stymied while the US and Russia gain time to exploit the natural gas markets in Western Europe. Of course there is a problem that Western Europe is in an economic recession and needs to come out of it if either Russia or the US are to profit from this whole enterprise.

    June 20, 2013

  • Beiruti

    Russia is currently working to counter the Nabucco program which would link Asia to Europe for natural gas transshipments by-passing Russia. Russia is trying to complete its South Stream pipe line project first to pre-empt Nabucco and hold its near monopoly. Iran is playing both sides, allying with the Russian in the Syrian war, and working with the Turks on the Nabucco line. You will notice that its eastern terminus is in Iran. Here is a picture of the Nabucco project: http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://eurodialogue.org/files/fckeditor_files/Nabucco-Pipeline-map.gif&imgrefurl=http://eurodialogue.org/Nabucco-Pipeline-Map&h=564&w=800&sz=63&tbnid=l5GhNF4C83Oa1M:&tbnh=87&tbnw=123&prev=/search%3Fq%3DNabucco%2BPipeline%26tbm%3Disch%26tbo%3Du&zoom=1&q=Nabucco+Pipeline&usg=__eIY4REpjGWW5d2G-B1fUhBvSR3I=&docid=YPZKlvvFIRPxtM&sa=X&ei=G_3CUfKvIISi9QSV44FY&ved=0CEIQ9QEwAg&dur=2586 As you know, these players have more than one face. There is the public face they put on in order to move the masses, then there is the private face which is very calculating, very rational, in many ways, very Machievellian and always gauged to maximize the economic interests of the regime.

    June 20, 2013

  • Beiruti

    @Monkfish. To answer your questions: 1. Iran is reaping the economic consequences of its reckless bomb-craving. Why would access to European markets be a motivating factor for Iran given the extremely tense relations with Europe, relations which are likely to worsen when Iran announces that it is a nuclear-armed state? Iran needs to get out of the sanctions regime imposed by the US and UN. Russia came in from the cold with regard to Western Europe when it started providing energy to the West with its natural gas lines. What better way to break the boycott regime of the US and Western Europe than to bring a new source of energy on line to the Europeans? Would the Europeans still view Iran even Iran with nuclear power as a piriah if it were now selling natural gas to Europe? 2. Iranian LNG destined to the European energy market has to transit through Turkey. Iran's deep military involvement in the Syrian melee and die-hard support of Assad has alienated Turkey. . .: Have a look at this site: http://www.eia.gov/countries/cab.cfm?fips=ir Take particular note of the Iranian gas distribution infrastructure. It has many exit points from Iranian territory, including to Turkey. The relations between Iran and Turkey are not as strained as you may think from current events. Iran and Turkey were part of a "periferal strategy" maintained by Israel. Iran has a long history of dealing with Israel and Israel a long history of relations with Turkey. Turkey and Iran share a common Kurdish problem. Also, Google up the Nabucco Pipeline and you'll find articles like this: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/28/eu-gas-idUSL6N0E41JX20130528

    June 20, 2013

  • Beiruti

    Turn to Syria. Unless there is some underlying economic rationale for US military involvement, then there is no US military involvment. We obviously are not concerned with the loss of innocent Syrian lives. 93,000+ lives lost tells you that. What we are interested in, however, is that this war not come to a precipitous end, with one side or the other prevailing. There are underlying economic interests at play here, mainly the sea change in the world energy markets caused by the new discoveries of recoverable oil and gas in the US and the strategic decision that has been made to market the LNG in Western Europe. The Russians oppose this as they have the near monopoly in that market. The petroleum industry has become the source of much of Russia's national wealth and its near monopoly in supplying natural gas to Western Europe gives Russia strategic leverage against the ever encroaching NATO alliance. The new players in the Natural Gas market in Western Europe are Iran and Qatar with the PARS/North Field gas reserves that both counties share in the waters of the Persian Gulf. That gas which was destined for the US, now seeks a new market, Europe. Russia and Iraq seek to block the Qataris getting their gas to the European markets via pipelines that transit Syria or Iraq to Turkey that fancies itself as the future energy hub for Europe. This has brought Russia and Iran into the war on the side of the Assad Regime which is pliant to the economic interests of its patrons. The US is not as interested in assisting the Qataris as it is in blocking the Russians and Iranians. So the US will help out, not to bring about "democracy in Syria", but to prolong the instability in Syria so that the Iranian/Russian project is stalled long enough for US LNG infrastructure to get funded and built for gas shipments to Europe.

    June 19, 2013

  • MonkFish

    Interesting post. I'm usually sceptical of monocausal explanations or "it's all about the oil" accounts but yours has the advantage of clarifying something that has mystified me for a while now: Germany's non-interventionist foreign policy. As Germany's main supplier in oil and natural gas is Russia, it stands to reason that Merkel would rather take the back seat than ruffle feathers in the Kremlin. Unlike Southern Europe and the Balkans, Germany has nothing to lose from alienating Turkey through its tacit support of the Russian position on Syria as its supply is independent of Turkish energy infrastructure (Druzhba pipeline). As for Russia, maintaining a client regime in Syria and its Mediterranean naval facility in Tartus will allow it to oversee the development of Syrian and Cypriot (another client state) off shore natural gas (and perhaps get a taste of the nascent Israeli natural gas industry too). Now allow to ask a question that would be unthinkable to a more ideological mind (these seem thankfully rare on Now Lebanon): if the Syrian "revolution" fails, and the rebels are utterly defeated will this planned pipeline be diverted towards the south, i.e. Jordan and Israel? Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani is rumoured be to planning a trip to Jerusalem soon, ostensibly to inaugurate a new Israeli-Palestinian-Jordian business arbitration court. Could the real reason for his visit be to negotiate a contingency plan whereby Qatari LNG transits through Israel and Cyprus should the Sunni rebellion fail? If so, can we expect Hamas' new patron to put the damper on the "resistance's" military operations in the short and middle term? At any rate, it's truly fascinating to see how essential differences over energy suppliers have managed to scupper any common EU foreign policy over Syria and Libya.

    June 19, 2013

  • MonkFish

    A couple of potential flaws in your reasoning: 1. Iran is reaping the economic consequences of its reckless bomb-craving. Why would access to European markets be a motivating factor for Iran given the extremely tense relations with Europe, relations which are likely to worsen when Iran announces that it is a nuclear-armed state? 2. Iranian LNG destined to the European energy market has to transit through Turkey. Iran's deep military involvement in the Syrian melee and die-hard support of Assad has alienated Turkey, not only because it frustrates Erdogan's neo-ottoman delusions of grandeur but because it has caused domestic tensions between Sunni and Alevis (who mistakenly identify with Assad's Alawi sect). If flogging oil and gas to the Europeans were an Iranian priority, why would Iran risk losing the friendship of geographical turn-table that is Turkey?

    June 19, 2013

  • Beiruti

    @Michal Zapendowski. These are very good points. But take into account that the issues in these countries are multi-layered. Take into account that these big powers, such as Russia and the US do not move for any reason that does not have some economically rational basis. Bush went into Iraq, despite all signs that would have indicated that he not go there for one reason, that was to take control of the petroleum resources. If you read some of Cheney's writings; the Project for the New American Century (PNAC); the secret memos that came out last year in The Guardian of British petrol companies planning on this war in Iraq 1 year prior ot the invasion to exploit oil reserves, you can see that what drove the war policy there was not the smoke and mirrors of Weapons of Mass Destruction and saving the world from Saddam. Those were not the reasons for the war policy, but the pretextual rationale for the war policy. Whether Iraq came out the other end as a Jeffersonian Democracy or not was not considered. That was just part of the political cover for the resource grab. It was done, according to Cheney, because without Russia to stop us, "we could."

    June 19, 2013

  • Hanibaal-Atheos

    Thank you MONKFISH and MICHAL: In the current status of the Muslim-Arab world, there is not one - not one - Muslim country that can hold up to the minimum standards of acceptable governance, even countries that have been stable for decades like Indonesia and Malaysia. Regardless of whether this is an inherent deficit in the Muslim world or a stage in transition to better governance is not the point of discussion. The point in contention is really: WHY THE WEST? BY WHAT ARGUMENT IS THE APPEAL TO A WESTERN INTERVENTION IN SYRIA MADE? Is it because the West is superior culturally and technologically? or is it because cowardly political establishments (monarchies, "presidencies", emirates, and the like) in the Muslim-Arab world do not want to dirty their hands by invading another "sister" country of the umma? The West would be truly stupid to intervene in Syria without in the least forcing those countries now calling for its intervention to be in the front with soldiers, weapons, and money. This is not American or Western isolationism. This is more similar to the new "sustainable development" mantra of aid to Afirca: You help most by getting the recipients to assume responsibility for their future. Instead of throwing bags of rice at them. you help them grow their own rice. In Syria, and the Muslim-Arab world at large, the West would help the most by forcing the "elite" countries (Saudi, Turkey, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, etc.) to shoulder their responsibilities for securing other countries in the Muslim-Arab world, instead of constantly appealing to the theoretical enemy (the West) to do the work. Unless the fallacy of a Muslim-Arab world exists only in the rotting brains of Islamic fudnamentalists and Arab nationalists.

    June 19, 2013

  • Michal Zapendowski

    None of these "distinctions" are convincing. What caused Iraq to become a quagmire are three things: (1) the fact that Iraq was divided into Sunni, Shi'a and Kurdish regions; (2) Bush's decision to topple Saddam, whose reign of terror was the only thing holding Sunni & Shi'a Iraq together (the Kurdish region had already split off, under U.S. protection, in 1991); and (3) Bush's decision to try to realize the pipe dream of a "unified, democratic Iraq," thereby failing to protect Iraq's minority Sunnis from domination by the majority Shi'a. Virtually all of the violence directed against U.S. troops during the occupation was Sunni violence, opposed to the transition to domination by the numerically superior Shi'a. In addition, almost all of the Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence was fueled by these ethnic divisions. The big lesson of Iraq is that no ethnic group wants to be dominated by another -- even if that domination takes place through the ballot box. Now compare that outcome to Syria. Syria is, like Iraq, divided into ethnic regions (Sunni, an Alawi-Christian-Shi'a region, Druze and Kurd). Syria is in the process of trying to topple Assad, whose reign of terror was the only thing holding Syria together. And the Obama Administration has adopted the same mantra on Syria as Bush did on Iraq -- they want a "unified, democratic Syria" after Assad's fall. Fat chance.

    June 19, 2013

  • Beiruti

    And as for US boots on the ground, they are not coming and are not needed. Regarding the Jabhat al-Nusra, they are armed and funded by KSA and Qatar. US requirements now are that all funding and weapons coming from KSA and Qatar flow through Idriss who will not be providing those fighters with any more such aid. If they wish to continue in the fight, they have to give up that affiliation. Many KSA fighters have joined with the Jabhat al-Nusra because they were the only ones with money and weapons. As soon as the more democratic opposition gets funded and armed, these guys will come back out of Nusra and into the forces led by Idriss. Waterloo for Hezbollah is coming. It is called Aleppo. Aleppo will not be like Quaysr and Hezbollah will be exposed for what it actually is as a fighting force.

    June 18, 2013

  • MonkFish

    Sir, you underestimate the ideological attractiveness of the al-Nusra front's heady cocktail of puritanical Salafism (that now enjoys a global appeal thanks to the likes of Al Awlaki and a host of Saudi and Egyptian preachers) and genocidal anti-Shiism and Judeophobia. In brutal wars like the one raging in Syria that pit a well armed army against poorly coordinated rag-tag militias, a fanatical, good vs. evil, Muslim vs. kuffar/heretic worldview, exacting discipline and a divine license to rape, desecrate and murder are exactly what are needed for the latter to prevail against a more numerous enemy force with superior firepower. There is NO evidence to suggest that the FSA and moderates have a plan for post-Assad governance that will hold up against Al Qaida's anarchic Sharia mini-emirates (Yemen style) of the Muslim Brotherhood's top-down, Sharia-based one party rule. In peace, as in war, the groups with the most disciplined, most autocratic and most "Islamic" ideology and organisation will brush the moderates and secularists aside (with a great deal of help from their Saudi and Qatari sponsors). From a Lebanese perspective I can appreciate the rush you get from contemplating the destruction of Hezbollah - but forgive me for saying that your cries of joy will ring hollow when Baathist-Alawi minority rule is replaced with an equally illiberal tyranny of the majority.

    June 19, 2013

  • Beiruti

    I am more in agreement with Ibish on this topic than the opinion expressed by Hanibaal. Though I once shared the opinion of Hanibaal, that is, what does the US have to gain in this fight, the intervention of Russia, Iran and especially Hezbollah has changed the equation. Now rather than Assad surviving or the Rebels succeeding, which is little concern to the US, now we have regional and international actors, both of which are US adversaries who have skein in the game. If they, Russia and Iran, prevail, then its a whole other thing that Assad winning or losing. As Ibish writes, a successful coalition looks for other places to spread its hegemony. When the US bailed out of Lebanon in 1983, we all knew that what appeared to be a small loss to the Iranians there there would be the beginning of bigger losses elsewhere in the region, and so it was. A loss to Russia and Iran in Syria will have even greater negative implications for the US. I see the US policy change as having a quick impact on the ground. Already, just the fact that the US has lifted the arms embargo has resulted in 70 Syrian officers defecting and the breaking of diplomatic relations by Egypt with the Assad Regime. Jumblatt is traveling to find out what the implications are going to be. It is not just that the US is going to supply small arms to the FSA, but the US is lifting restrictions on its regional allies from providing bigger heavier and more sophisticated weaponry. We have the logistical conduit with Gen. Idriss. We have identified which forces are to be the beneficiary of the arms. And about those Syrian air defense systems, they only work within a certain range. US capability allows for us to use smart bombs where the manned fighter jet never crosses into Syrian airspace. We have satellite targeting and people on the ground who can set the targets. US counter measures to Syrian air defense makes Syrian air defense a silly joke.

    June 18, 2013

  • sam from boston

    HEY (...), U (...) IS PUSHING OUR GOVERNMENT TO SUPPORT THESE SAME (...)THAT ATTACKED US ON 911, OUR HARD EARNED TAX MONEY TO Z LIKES OF BINLADEN?, THAT BY IT SHOULD BE TREASON, (...)

    June 18, 2013

  • Baba

    Syria is not Iraq, it is Afghanistan

    June 18, 2013

  • Hanibaal-Atheos

    Hussein Ibish is trying really hard to convince the US to get entangled in the Syrian quagmire. None of his selling points, however, holds water. SYRIA IS WORSE THAN IRAQ, and that is the very reason behind current reluctance. If this was a walk in the park, as Ibish claims, it would already have been done. The more compelling reason for not becoming involved in Syria is that regardless of whether the entire Sunni world supports an American intervention or not, these same people - just as they did when the US intervened in Lebanon in 1982, in Kuwait in 1991, in Somalia in 1993, in Iraq in 2003 and elsewhwere, as soon as the first American soldier lands in Syria and as soon as Assad is on the run, all the Sunni Arab-Muslims will change their tune, renege on their pledges, and unite against the imperialist invasion of a sister Arab country. The Islamic Al-Qaeda radicals - who now make up the vast majority of the Syrian rebel fighting force - so-called Free Syrian Army as a ploy to seduce a credulous and naive West - will start blowing up Americans with IEDs and truck bomb embassies and other western targets. We have seen this scenario unfold in every one of the Western interventions in a Muslim-Arab country. If they intervene, the Americans will leave Syria in humiliation and defeat without as much as a thank you from the ingrate Muslim-Arab world. Only fools among Westerners would trust Arabs and Muslims. Finally, again I ask: WHY CAN'T THOSE SAME SUNNI ARAB COUNTRIES, WHOM IBISH SAYS SUPPORT AN AMERICAN INTERVENTION IN SYRIA, AND WHO HAVE WEALTH, MANPOWER AND WEAPONS, WHY DON:T THEY MOUNT AN INVASION AND LIBERATION OF SYRIA. WHY THE INSISTENCE ON USING WESTERNERS AS CANNON FODDER? The answer is: It would be a lot easier in the aftermath to brand the Americans as crusading invaders, and spilling Western blood is a cheaper option than spilling your own.

    June 18, 2013

  • MonkFish

    Come come, Hanibaal, don't be so hard on Mr Ibish who deserves credit for providing some, admittedly unconvincing, arguments for his interventionist position. In the US, the case for American involvement has consisted thus far of pathos-laden appeals to emotion, discredited neo-con senators ranting incoherently about arming "democrats" and school yard taunts from a former president whose case for intervention can be summed up as "you're a wuss for not joining the fight." It would be easy to rebutt Ibish point by point. However. your final question is, in my opinion, the essential one as there is NO rational argument to be made for the US taking the leading role in the war against Assad rather than the exceedingly well equipped and capable Saudi, Qatari and Turkish armies. For Ibish to answer that question he would have think responsibly (I have found that in most commentary on matters Middle Eastern there is a surfeit of conviction and an extreme shortage of responsibility) in the middle and long term about the wisdom of using (or is it abusing?) declining Western power to precipitate the birth of a deeply authoritarian, illiberal, anti-women, anti-Shia, anti-Western, anti-Christian and anti-Jewish, Sunni Islamist-dominated Middle East. I'm afraid that for even the best of our political commentators, mired in short-term thinking and quick fix solutions, that's too much to ask.

    June 18, 2013