Or would U.S. military involvement merely have made a disaster worse?
By Marc Lynch - Foreign Policy
Night falls on a Syrian rebel-controlled area including the destroyed Dar Al-Shifa hospital in Aleppo, Nov. 29, 2012.
[Photo: NARCISO CONTRERAS / AP]
With an estimated 60,000 dead and no end in sight, Syria is not only a humanitarian tragedy of mind-boggling, heart-rending proportions -- it's also the most difficult analytical issue I've ever grappled with, and the one the Obama administration has most struggled to get right. But it's important to dig into where exactly it went wrong.
The real U.S. failure of leadership in Syria is not that it refused to intervene militarily. Nor is it that it failed to arm the opposition. Its failure was that it could not find a political solution to prevent the descent into armed proxy war --- a descent we could all see coming. The spiraling catastrophe of the last six months confirms every warning about the dangers of an armed insurgency -- extending the conflict, making it bloodier and more extreme, and devolving power to the men with guns rather than the peaceful activists.
This catastrophe all too powerfully demonstrates why Kofi Annan's United Nations mission was worth supporting. His plan never had a great chance of success, but it was not hopeless. Annan and his supporters were right about a few big things: that the political process had to take precedence over the military track, that state institutions needed to be preserved in order to prevent a descent into anarchy, that Bashar al-Assad's backers abroad needed to support the process, and that the center of gravity had to be the undecided Syrian middle ground. There were moments when it seemed like it might work, ..... read more;