Across the Bay

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Road to Damascus is a Dead End

The editorials and op-eds on Pelosi's ill-advised trip to Syria continue to pile. Here's a good one in the Boston Herald.

The money graphs:

Normally, there’s no objection to members of Congress of either party meeting with officials of foreign governments. But Syria is not a normal government. In addition to exporting terror, its agents have tried to maintain control of Lebanon by assassinating opponents there.

A trip like Pelosi’s effectively rewards an outlaw Syria for nothing. What the “negotiate no matter what” crowd forgets is all the previous failed attempts to get Syria to negotiate seriously. They make new attempts and comments like Pelosi’s “the road to Damascus is a road to peace” nothing but rank foolishness. From 1993 to 2005, there have been many more than 20 high-level visits to Syria for nothing.

The last paragraph actually raises a very important issue that's often willfully forgotten by many who write about this. It's also brandished by the diplomats who mention the number of their trips as some sort of badge of honor. But, unsurprisingly, what's left out is the actual result of these trips: failure. Or, as Michael Barone put it, "End product: nada."

It's actually worse than nothing. The balance of the "shuttle diplomacy" of the 90's was negative; not even neutral. Not only did it not (and could not) achieve peace between Syria and Israel, it also cemented Syrian occupation and colonization of Lebanon, it failed to stop Syrian support for Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah. In fact, it amplified that relationship. And changed absolutely nothing in Syrian behavior and its historic support for terrorism. So it's untrue that "we lose nothing by trying." The track record is one of failure. To quote James Phillips, "What is missing is not American willingness to talk to Syria but Syria's willingness to halt its hostile actions."

So all in all, the history of diplomacy with Syria, as the Herald notes, has been a dismal failure from the beginning. Syria is a chronic exporter of instability; that is their interest, that's how they maintain relevance. Therefore, this kind of misguided, and failed, approach (the "negotiate no matter what" crowd, or the "we lose nothing by trying" crowd), will always be a failure (not to mention that it's an obvious trap by the Syrians). In fact, US and Syrian interests are diametrically opposed. It's that simple.