This is one of those posts I hate when others write them: the question posts. The author will put forward an idea (usually very provocative and controversial), present the pros and cons, and finish with "I'm just asking the question" when you know full well (s)he has a favorite answer in mind. Now, I'm actually going to write one, but I don't see any other choice here.
As followers of this blog already know, yours truly called for Syria's liberation last week, due to the Assad regime's support for anti-American and anti-Israeli terrorists and the support it receives from Communist China. I left open the question of how this liberation could occur, although I obviously preferred a peaceful liberation. Now, I'm not sure so the democratic world should wait that long.
I believe as much as I did in 2004 (National Review Online) that Iraq will never be at peace until its neighbors (Iran and Syria) are free. The two tyrannies have been allies for decades, both in the fight against Saddam Hussein (the 1980s Iran-Iraq war) and the current fight against Iraq's democratically elected government (both are supporting varying anti-American terrorist "insurgents"). The longer Syria and/or Iran remain unfree, the more Americans will die; it's that simple.
The first question I have (and to which I do not know the answer) is this: will expanding the military action into Syria help relieve the pressure in Iraq? On the one hand, shifting American troops out of the Iraqi theatre (the most likely precursor for a Syria operation) could make an already dicey security situation even worse. On the other hand, Bashar Assad would, I suspect, have to pull back the terrorists he's sending into Iraq for his own protection. I'm guessing (or perhaps hoping is the better term) that fewer terrorists and fewer American troops would point to a quieter Iraq, but I'm not really sure (and yes, that's an open invitation for readers to opine on the subject).
The second question is just as important as the first: how would this affect Israel's battle against Hezbollah and Hamas? Syria would obviously be less able to aid Hezbollah's battle if it's busy fending off the U.S. military. That could make it easier for Israel to defeat its terrorist enemies (in fact, I would submit that the battle will never be one until Syria is out of the terrorist-sponsoring business permanently). However, what would the reaction of the rest of the Arab world be? My guess is little different from its current reaction to the Israel-Hezbollah battle, i.e., sit it out. However, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, et al could decide three democracies in the Middle East (Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon; Palestine does not count) are too many.
The third question is at least equal to the other two: What about Iran? Would the Khomeinist regime decide to intervene militarily? If so, how? I would surmise Iran would probably try to intensify their terrorist activity in Iraq, and try to make up for Syria's withdrawal from the field in Lebanon and Israel, but that's just a guess.
Finally, and most importantly, how close is Syria's Reform Party and other pro-democracy forces to toppling the Assad regime? If Assad is as weak now as Milosevic was in 2000, that fact alone could trump everything. If, rather, he is as strong as Saddam in 2002, we should probably swallow hard and take military action. My fear is the truth is closer to the latter than the former.
In other words, I am coming to the conclusion that Syria may need to be liberated by military force. It would, in my view, make it easier to stabilize Iraq, help Israel and Lebanon immensely, and leave Iran (and its all-important benefactor, Communist China) isolated. Combined with active support for Iranian nascent pro-democracy movement, it could even hasten the end of both terrorist regimes.
However, there are some "facts on the ground" that I do not have at present, so I am hesitant to put my foot down here. Instead, I will open this up to you the readers, and meekly end with "I'm just asking the question."
Well, not quite: one thing beyond question is this - neither Iran nor Syria, nor all their terrorist friends, would be as dangerous as they are without the Chinese Communist Party. The road to victory may end up going through Damascus, but the War on Terror is really just part of Cold War II, and the road to victory will only end in one place - Beijing. Until the Chinese people can take their country back from the Communists, neither America nor any one else in the democratic world will truly be secure.