Across the Bay

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Lee Smith on the Syria Policy

An excellent piece by Lee Smith in Tablet Magazine today:

The argument over how to engage Syria encompasses, then, both sentimental and strategic logic. It’s a debate in which emotions run surprisingly high for a country that has nothing like the significance of China, Russia, or Iran, because finally the argument is little more than a shadow play. Washington doesn’t like the fact that Syria kills Americans and our friends, but since we are not willing to stop them by killing those Syrians responsible, there is little that we can do about it. So, we argue with ourselves about sending an ambassador to Damascus.

The reality is rather more consequential than the phony argument over Syria policy would suggest. The issue is finally about terrorism, which is not the work of shadowy networks hiding in caves and rogue operators whose grievances about the end of the Ottoman caliphate and the plight of the Palestinians can be soothed by an American public diplomacy campaign. This is a fiction, and the truth could not be any clearer. As Syrian support for Hezbollah, Hamas, Al Qaeda in Iraq, and a host of other organizations shows, Islamic terrorism is how Middle Eastern regimes fight for their strategic interests. If we let Syria off the hook for its proven acts of terror against U.S. military and diplomatic personnel, as well as U.S. allies in Israel, Lebanon, and Iraq, we have all but announced that in the event of future attacks on the U.S. homeland we will never retaliate against the states without which so-called stateless terrorist organizations cannot exist. We will have effectively disabled any deterrence we have against our adversaries and make our cities vulnerable to anyone who can lie his way past the Transportation Security Administration.

Obama’s public diplomacy is premised on the notion of reaching out to the Muslim masses and encouraging moderate streams of Islam, a strategy that is incongruous with a diplomacy that also reaches out to Muslim states that not only breed and support extremism but also arm it to kill Americans.

Read the whole thing.