In the Wall Street Journal, Bret Stephens argues that if President Obama attacks Syria, he should kill Bashar al-Assad
Should President Obama decide to order a military strike against
Syria, his main order of business must be to kill Bashar Assad. Also,
Bashar's brother and principal henchman, Maher. Also, everyone else in
the Assad family with a claim on political power. Also, all of the
political symbols of the Assad family's power, including all of their
official or unofficial residences. The use of chemical weapons against
one's own citizens plumbs depths of barbarity matched in recent history
only by Saddam Hussein. A civilized world cannot tolerate it. It must
demonstrate that the penalty for it will be acutely personal and
Maybe this strikes some readers as bloody-minded. But I don't see how
a president who ran for his second term boasting about how he "got" Osama bin Laden—one bullet to the head and another to the heart—has any grounds to quarrel with the concept.
As it is, a strike directed straight at the Syrian dictator and his
family is the only military option that will not run afoul of the only
red line Mr. Obama is adamant about: not getting drawn into a protracted
Syrian conflict. And it is the one option that has a chance to pay
strategic dividends from what will inevitably be a symbolic action.
And so to the Kill Assad option. On Monday John Kerry
spoke with remarkable passion about the "moral obscenity" of using
chemical weapons, and about the need to enforce "accountability for
those who would use the world's most heinous weapons against the world's
most vulnerable people." Amen, Mr. Secretary, especially considering
that you used to be Bashar's best friend in Washington.
But now those words must be made to mean something, lest they become a
piece of that other moral obscenity: the West's hitherto bland
indifference to Syria's suffering. Condemnation can no longer suffice.
It recalls the international reaction to Mussolini's invasion of
Abyssinia, captured by the magazine Punch:
"We don't want you to fight/but by jingo if you do/We will probably
issue a joint memorandum/Suggesting a mild disapproval of you."
Mussolini went on to conquer the country—using chemical weapons.
The world can ill-afford a reprise of the 1930s, when the barbarians
were given free rein by a West that had lost its will to enforce global
order. Yes, a Tomahawk aimed at Assad could miss, just as the missiles
aimed at Saddam did. But there's also a chance it could hit and hasten
the end of the civil war. And there's both a moral and deterrent value
in putting Bashar and Maher on the same list that once contained the
names of bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki.
Very nice, but who will take Assad's place? Al-Qaeda? Seven of the nine groups making up the Free Syrian Army are Islamists of various types....
There will be other occasions to consider the narrow question of Syria's future.
Sorry, but no. Unless you're willing to go in and occupy Syria to make sure the Islamists don't take over, please don't go killing Assad. I'd rather see him and the Islamists kill each other off than have the Islamists in charge of Syria.
Labels: al-Qaeda, Barack Hussein Obama, Bashar al-Assad, chemical weapons, John Kerry