Massacre in Syria
May 30th, 2012
12:14 PM ET

U.S. intervention in Syria: Damned if they do, damned if they don't?

They are questions asked many times since the Syria violence began: When will it stop? What can the U.S. and international community do? What options are left?

Stephen Hadley, former White House national security adviser for George W. Bush and now a senior adviser for the U.S. Institute of Peace, weighs in.

CNN: If you were sitting in the White House today and you were seeing the pictures of violence, you would be outraged. Is the legal question enough to stop intervention (the fact that there's no resolution from the U.N. Security Council nor any invitation from the Arab League)? At what point does the president of the United States, a prime minister of the U.K. or a president of France have to say, "I don't care, I have to stop this?"

HADLEY: He has to be willing to do that. We went into Bosnia, as you know, without a U.N. Security Council resolution.

It would be helpful to have the Arab League, to have neighborhood countries on board with us, because it will make effective whatever we decide to do. But the president of the United States has to make a decision of what is in U.S. interest. You know if you go to the U.N., you are going to get a Russia/Chinese veto. That isn't an option.

I think the question is, what is in the interests of the United States? What do we need to do in that region? And I think the answer is becoming clear.

Related: What can the world do?

CNN: Is this massacre enough to be a turning point? There are some who say, well, the Russians signed on to the Kofi Annan mission. Now that it is clearly failing, maybe they will feel some moral imperative to take it to a next step. Do you have any reason to believe the Russians will do anything significant?

HADLEY: I don't think so. And I think it's not just the massacre, as terrible as the loss of life has been. It's also what's happening in that country as long as President Bashar al-Assad stays there.

Many people say, if we intervene, it is going to cause sectarian violence to spread in the region. It's getting to the point if we don't intervene in some way, there is going to be sectarian violence. It is descending into sectarian violence.

And that sectarian violence runs the risk of pitting Sunni against Shia in Lebanon, in Jordan, in Iraq, maybe even in Turkey itself. So it's getting to the point that if we don't do something more decisive, it will plunge the region into instability and sectarian violence. And that would be a tragedy.

CNN: What would it take? Intelligence sources say there are 24, 26 potential sites inside Syria where they have weapons of mass destruction. People at the Pentagon, if you talked to allied government, they would say at a minimum 75,000 boots on the ground were needed to secure those sites, to have reasonable safety. Is that right?

HADLEY: Boots on the ground is not the only option. ... What we need to do is we need to pull the pillars that remain supporting the al-Assad regime — the military, the minority groups like the Alawites and the Christians, and business community — and we need to pull them away from the regime.

What's going to do that? We need a Syrian National Council and an opposition movement that is assumed by the international community, that has a cross-sectarian message. I believe we need to begin arming those groups within Syria that will support that cross-sectarian message.

And, finally, I think the United States is at the point where we need to prepare for some kind of intervention. That doesn't necessarily mean boots on the ground. People have talked about no-fly zones, no-drive zones, areas where the opposition could congregate and train. I think we have to prepare that.

I'm reluctant to say it: I think we have to prepare for it. One, we might need it and, two, the act of preparation, figuring out what operationally we can do, getting support in the region, may actually help tip the military, the business community and the minorities to decide, "We're going to go down with al-Assad [so] we better be part of a new Syria."

– This interview originally appeared on "JKUSA"

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Topics: Syria

soundoff (231 Responses)
  1. H. B.

    I know our press isn't supposed to show truly graphic things, like the bodies supposedly "torn apart" in Syria, but I didn't find the photos on this page graphic at all. The photos didn't even show signs of serious wounds, which usually is allowed. I saw faces which, apparently, had been dead for some time, but still had normal color, and I saw some of what looked like bloodstains. Minor ones. There is ample reason to suspect the photos are faked. But we can't be sure of THAT, either.

    At a time when you CAN'T be sure, it is NOT a time to act.

    IF these people were truly dead, victims of the massacre, we still don't know which side did it. We only have statements of people, which we are "required" to believe in the total absence of journalists.

    But we DO have an option: to believe NONE of it. Make them pony up some hard evidence, not just statements from people. Including OBJECTIVE evidence of WHO DID IT.

    Since when do we go to war on an "if"? Well, we did, once – and hopefully learned from it. The loss of thousands of our people, and the trillions of dollars it cost, ought to be a real good lesson, right?

    Muslims have learned, too, from the start of the Iraq war. They learned that, if they push enough of the right buttons, they can get America and most of the free world to fight their wars for them. They think we're really stupid enough to get wazooed – yet again – by our emotional buttons into going to war on an "if".

    And they may be right; maybe we ARE that stupid.

    I'm appalled by the prospect of people who kill babies, but WHO did the killing? If it was real at ALL?

    In Libya, that's how it was, too, one bloodthirsty group calling itself government, and another equally bloodthirsty group calling itself the "Arab Spring." Remember? Remember how it turned out, with those "noble rebels" sodomizing and LYNCHING Khadafi? Such nice people. And WE helped them, didn't we? And where is that democracy they all "yearned" for? Whoops! They lied.

    If you don't know by now that Muslims LIE, you'd better do some serious homework. They ALL lie, where anything touching on their religion is concerned – lying to us infidels is a VIRTUE in Islam. So are the statements of atrocities we read about lies? Are the photos faked? The odds are even in either direction.

    They're Muslims. Killing is their way. It's their country, and their business, not ours. There ARE no innocent sides here, except in the non-Muslim population.

    Even when the Sudan was committing genocide in the south and had killed 2 1/2 MILLION black people over 2 decades, our governments and media labeled it a "civil war," so we wouldn't have to try to stop the genocide. If not involving ourselves in their "civil war" was justified because it was "their own internal affair," how is Syria any different? Are they more important people because they're not black? We established a precedent in not wading in on a civil war, so we should stick with that with Syria, too.

    And look what happened when we DID wade in – at least on the outskirts – in Libya? All those "noble rebels" who "yearned for freedom and democracy" sodomized and then lynched Khadafy – gleefully. Nobody deserves that. Nice people, weren't they? And where-o-where is that democracy they wanted? Have we learned anything yet about how Muslims operate? If you'd studied Islam, as I have done for years, you'd realize that they are often very predictable. I could predict what the "Arab Spring" would be like the day I first heard of them, before they'd done anything yet.

    Yet our media – and many people – STILL think of the "Arab Spring" as a noble movement for liberty! My fellow liberals don't know how to embrace this reality. It's just too ugly. But the conservatives' knee-jerk is "Bomb them!" Both incredibly WRONG.

    Even our courts require hard evidence, beyond a reasonable doubt, to convict even the worst criminal. Why should we go leaping into war over an emotional reaction to what MIGHT or might not be propaganda?

    Either way, though, both sides are Muslims. They are merely exercising their religious rights. It's called a "civil war," and civil wars are entirely the business of the people in that country. The fact that with the Internet we can see, up close, some of its atrocities doesn't change that. Who are WE to tell them their religious rights to jihad should not be tolerated?

    But even if they're telling us the truth, what makes us feel we should intervene when they are all – on both sides – merely exercising their religious rights? Who are WE to tell them what is righteous or not about killing babies? They do it, and will do it – both sides will. If we go to war to make them stop killing, and especially to stop killing babies, we are interfering with the free exercise of their faith. I don't say this facetiously. It IS how they operate. Both sides are equally bloodthirsty, both willing to commit atrocities. And they are not above killing some of their OWN babies for the sake of propaganda. Both sides. Simply put, neither side deserves one bit of our compassion. The babies, if really being killed, DO merit compassion, but what CAN we do about it, when we can't even be sure the killings really happened, or which side is (this time) the real bad guy? By OUR standards of measure, they are both bad guys. But not by THEIR standards of measure, which allow any form of slaughter and atrocity.

    Our political correctness requires that we subtract Islam from any of this, when the whole thing is about Islam. Whose version of it should prevail. Which sect should rule and slaughter the other sects. All Muslim sects believe in oppression of the other sects, and ALL believe in strongman dictators of Islamic States. It's just a matter of whose ox is gored.

    Of one thing we can be sure. No matter who prevails in Syria, the outcome will NOT good-news us. Even if we pick a side and insure that it prevails, that will still be true. In a choice between two nasty things, it makes no sense to choose one and make it happen. But it can hurt US.

    Let's hold those who want to go to war with Syria to the same standard to which we hold our prosecutors trying hardened and bloodthirsty criminals. "Proof, beyond a reasonable doubt." How can a lower standard make any sense at ALL, when it extends to whole nations? The only thing we CAN do is to prevent other countries from supplying either side with arms. That's IT. Keep the whole thing internal and let them work it out their way. Since they will do just that, anyway.

    Let's not cater to over-emotionalism without any pragmatism coming into play. And let's make our domestic warhawks measure up to the higher standard of evidence, rather than raw emotion. Fool us once, shame on you; fool us twice...

    No "IF" is adequate basis for waging war.

    May 30, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Reply
    • Grog Says

      Grog no have time to read novel.
      Grog have short attention span.

      May 31, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Reply
    • Ben

      Something called strategy... It is in The U.S.'s best interests to A. Save lives in Syria B.Cut off Iran and we actually have a reason or excuse to do so right now C. Restrict the sale of Russian arm to this area. D. Limit Chinese and Russian influence in the area to just Iran. F. Increase Turkey's influence on the middle east as a great democracy with its military involvement.
      This is pragmatic! In the long run weakens these nations who aren't our friends, who will do anything to make the "west" look bad. Stopping Syria has immediate effects on the lives of the people who live in Syria, especially the children in Syria, cause its not the dead ones I worry about, its the ones that are still alive! Strategically it makes sense. In the long run it weakens Russia and China influence in the area. I have to disagree with that entire page you wrote, sounds like you have to much emotion in this and need to think clearly on why this country is and was great. We just need to get positioned in the Pacific a little better, than we'll be ready to take care of Syria.

      June 1, 2012 at 2:13 am | Reply
  2. Marine5484

    If we're all so "worried" about what's going on in Syria, then why not let one of our rubber-stamp European allies intervene militarily? Then again, when did any of these rubber-stamp allies of ours do anything on their own? The answer is, is that their leaders are a bunch of amoral, money-grubbing bureacrats with no sense of right or wrong!

    May 30, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Reply
    • Patrick

      Well put, Marine5484. Thank you.

      May 31, 2012 at 9:33 am | Reply
      • Patrick

        As swipe, stop stealing my name.
        You are a moron and you will always be a moron.

        June 1, 2012 at 11:59 am |
      • Patrick

        As stated previously on this blog and others, this islamist Patrick-2 is AKA George Patton, Rosie, j.Foster Dulles, Joseph McCarthy, Marine5484, Yacobi, Warren, Quigley, Willie12345 and Vin harasses when he/she is pointed out to be the sc um he/she is.
        Please check your bbs, androids and iphone to see that I have not made this statement.

        The thing this mo ron does not seem to realize yet is that the more he/she harasses me, the more determined I am to point him/her out to us.

        June 1, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
      • Patrick

        As stated previously on this blog and others, this islamist Patrick-2 is AKA George Patton, Rosie, j.Foster Dulles, Joseph McCarthy, Marine5484, Yacobi, Warren, Quigley, Willie12345 and Vin harasses when he/she is pointed out to be the sc um he/she is.
        Please check your bbs, androids and iphone to see that I have not made this statement.
        The thing this mo ron does not seem to realize yet is that the more he/she harasses me, the more determined I am to point him/her out to us.

        June 1, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  3. KennyG

    Mr O says let's put economic sanctions on a country (Syria) that does not care about it's people. Kinda reminds you of North Korea. It worked so well there. Russia will continue to support the Syrian dictatorship (big trading partner).

    May 30, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Reply
  4. gadzooks

    interesting. no where is the cost of the US intervening mentioned.
    so, how would we pay for yet another war
    again, how would we pay for yet another war
    how would we pay for yet another war
    how would we pay for yet another war

    May 30, 2012 at 9:22 pm | Reply
  5. Guest

    Watch us treat this the same way we treat Rwanda.

    Th US forces were spent in the wars following 9/11 without a UN resolution, sure you can blame it on that but the fact is as long as Russia and China see the US and NATO as compettors they will veto any resolution to stop this bloodbath.

    Good luck brave people of Syria resisting the Tyranny and murderous wrath of an opressive regiem. I am afraid that is all that I can offer.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:39 pm | Reply
  6. farside6262

    This has been brewing for a long time. Think it is time for someone other than "America, World Police" to step in. Can't we encourage that??
    We are no longer the richest country, by a long shot, and have extreme debts due to stepping into international conflicts for decades.
    Nothing personal re:Syria, but let's tend to our own issues and people for a change.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:39 pm | Reply
  7. Indra

    Nope. Let Israel fight its own war. Have its own sons lose legs.

    No more billions to Israel either.

    May 31, 2012 at 1:53 am | Reply
    • xennomorph

      This has nothing to do with Israel.
      You are a moron.

      May 31, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Reply
  8. Peikovianyi

    Russians don't like Muslims, but want a Mediterreanean naval port in Syria. Iranians don't like Arabs, but want a land route to Hezbollah surrogates in Lebanon. Syrian Arab Muslims have no say in who runs their country. It's a one-party police state. Anyone who needs to mention Israel in any of this has their own hatred of Israel, which of course is a hatred of Jewish people, and CNN can't help you with that.

    May 31, 2012 at 1:58 am | Reply
    • Andrey

      Israel hates Americans, but want them continue doing its biddings.

      May 31, 2012 at 9:32 am | Reply
      • Grog Says

        When you get done pooping.
        Remember to whipe butt.

        May 31, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  9. Alohali

    The Syrian regime derives its strength from China, Russia and Iran. Therefore peoples of the world must boycott these countries economically at least till they stop their support for the killing of innocent people.

    May 31, 2012 at 3:27 am | Reply
  10. Tony

    Some Americans here support the slaughter of children with knives.
    I'm not sure that they are Americans, the high probability that they Alawites from Syria!

    May 31, 2012 at 3:52 am | Reply
    • Hoo Myself

      Yes, i was just talking to my neighbor,
      and he mentioned to me that it was nice being an American,
      because we support killing Syrian children.

      May 31, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Reply
  11. Muin

    Romney's idea seem reasonable since U.s ally saudi is alreay giving them stuff. Romney needs to pick V.P now cuz he's as old as Biden. He needs someone energetic to campaign with him. He puts young people like me to sleep.

    May 31, 2012 at 8:42 am | Reply
    • Mrs Murphys Pies

      Well dear, six year olds do need there sleep.

      May 31, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Reply
  12. Chukwuemeka

    The countries within the region should be involved because some of them are in support of Assad. The US is still suffering from the humuliating manner France & uk drove them out of Libya, therefore let them move into Syria and stop waiting for the Americans.

    May 31, 2012 at 10:38 am | Reply
    • Hoo Myself

      *** The US is still suffering from the humuliating manner France & uk drove them out of Libya,.....

      So thats what the war was all about.
      France & England went to Lybia to drive out the Americans.


      May 31, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Reply
  13. Ben

    Time to attack is sooner rather than later. The president likely has to weigh in on the fact that Russia and China may not only oppose it, but attempt to stretch U.S. resources and power by actually taking the other side completely. The longer we wait and the faster these economy's grow (Russia/China), allows them more time to prepare for what they want, which is to show up the U.S.. Gotta beat out the dictator now, and our government has to do what it used to do best, which is to be a moral leader, win hearts and minds by supporting opposition and then allow the world to make their own choice. We got nothing out of Iraq, revenge in Afghanistan, we need to do the right thing in Syria.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:51 am | Reply
  14. C.J

    how about u guys kill every muslim u see and get it over with just like the nazi did with jews as far as what iv read u know nothing about islam your so ignorant criminals doesnt have religion

    June 7, 2012 at 9:32 am | Reply
  15. frank

    we should not get involved in this we should stop messing with other nations let them work it out them selves the us getting involved would only put more people like are own soldier in harms way just like vietnam leave people alone we have info problems are self.

    June 8, 2012 at 10:40 pm | Reply
  16. Ray

    I can't believe some of you would not want to intervene, lives are going to be taken away and you are going to sit and watch like you do not care? That is selfish indeed, regardless if it's political or not, the soldiers of the army are to protect the interests of the people, but that does not mean they do not want to intervene. People are so scared of soldiers dying but that is part of the job. You protest the soldiers to not fight but is that the interests of the soldiers or the people? Go ask some soldiers if they want to intervene and I am sure most of them want to help but they are held back by the weak and fearful public. What is the point of having a great military in the US if you are not going to use it? Might as well not have one and watch the world die as countless lives are being taken away each minute, hour and day. Peace does not come without sacrifice.

    July 13, 2012 at 12:04 am | Reply
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