Can we make a deal with Syria to end their meddling in Iraq and Lebanon? Is it a mistake not to talk to boy Assad? Is it a mistake not to grant favors to get something from Syria? Advocates often resort to arguing "you negotiate peace with your enemies--not your friends."
I've always hated that so-called argument. Listen up. You have peace with your friends. With enemies, you don't have peace. That's why you and they are enemies. Got it? Now, and this is a difficult concept for some to grasp, with enemies, you kill them until you win or they stop being enemies. With friends, you don't have to kill them. They're your friend. You get along with them and they with you. Comprende?
So the question is, will Syria do enough to stop being considered our enemy. I think the Syrians know that we don't like them helping kill our troops in Iraq, enabling Hizbollah to attack Israel, oppressing the Syrian people, being an ally of Iran, encouraging our hemisphere's leading annoyance, and--well, you get the point. Why do we need to talk? Which of these things are negotiable? Are we to talk about how agreeing to how many Americans Syria helps kill? And if Syria thinks of us as their enemy enough to do all these things, why would talking get them to stop?
But this doesn't mean we must invade Syria.
In the Long War, we have a lot of problems to address. The Moslem world is not really ready for polite company, I'm sad to say. Moslems aren't the problem, I hope, based on their success in our country where they are not dragged down by the anchor of Islamic tradition. But just because the Moslem world is backwards doesn't mean we invade every Moslem country to fix them. And even if victory means doing that, it wouldn't mean invading every one of them tomorrow.
So when we brought Libya in from the cold, I was all for it. I'd advocated exactly that long before the announcement that Libya was turning over its WMD programs to us and coming clean.
I thought this was a good thing because of the signal it would send to other regimes that oppose us but aren't Islamo-nutcases. If they think they must win or die, they'll try to win--even if it means siding with Islamo-fascists. If they think they can switch to our side without going before a firing squad, they'll do that, too.
By getting some countries to defect, we isolate the hard cases for more harsh action.
With luck or time, winning against the defecting countries can be a two- or three-step process. Internal opposition can be strengthened with the example of other Moslem democracies around them, and eventually we may get the final victory against despotism without having to fire a shot. Or by firing shots in support of democratic revolutions. Both are better options than invading if we can do it.
I also figured Syria could be a prime target for this effort. Syria is an old fashioned despotism and not a jihadi state. Despite the fact that Syria is helping kill Americans, if it helps win the Long War, I'm all for letting them off the hook for now to mop up in Iraq and focus on Iran.
That's the theory, anyway.
Michael Ledeen strongly disagrees with the idea that we can come to an agreement with Syria that actually benefits us. I must say that in the practical sense, I strongly sympathize with this view. My opinion on engineering a defection by Syria is an abstract theoretical position. If we can turn Syria to a neutral or nominal friend, I'd have no problem with letting them off the hook for now.
But we sent the signal with Libya about what a rogue state needs to do to avoid our wrath. It is possible to survive having once been our enemy. But to move from the enemy column to the tolerated column, you have to come clean completely about WMD and end terror sponsorship. That's the deal. Period.
We established the Libya template for "talking." We have no need for a lesser Syria template. Settling for anything less than the Libya model in regard to Syria destroys the template we established with Libya about what a rogue state needs to do to come in from the cold. Heck, Libya might want to renegotiate if we let Syria in for less. So Syria's turn will come, I figure, even if we cut a deal based on the Libya template. We have bigger problems than toppling one thug if that thug will mind his own business.
We don't have to win everything all at once--nor can we in practice--so let's put off the non-Islamist threats when we can for later while we defeat the Islamist threats. Of course, that doesn't mean any deal with Syria is good. I'd want to see Syria do some very concrete things to cut off support for terrorists first that benefit us in Iraq and Lebanon. And come clean on WMD. Do that and we can talk about other things. Otherwise, no deal with Syria.
And no need to talk about it. What's the point? Syria knows what they need to stop doing. That's the reality of the situation.