The Instigator
newwine
Pro (for)
The Contender
levi_smiles
Con (against)

The U.S. should side with Assad and Russia instead of rebels in the Syrian Civil War.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/22/2016 Category: Politics
Updated: 1 week ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 142 times Debate No: 97266
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (1)
Votes (0)

 

newwine

Pro

My Overview: The U.S. got involved in Syria after the Arab spring erupted in the Middle East and North Africa. This is after the U.S. took sides and ousted government Egypt and Libya. Syria however was not a government that was easily overthrown and so the U.S. began supplying anti-tank weapons and training to rebel and Kurdish forces. ISIS formed as a result of the chaos and instability. Russia joined the stronger side of a 4 sided war. The 4 sides being Assad, rebels, ISIS, and Kurds. As a result of the ensuing chaos, ISIS spread to Iraq, refugees flock to Europe, terrorists attack France and Belgium, and ISIS inspired attacks spread to the U.S.

My view is that fighting against Assad is impossible because the rebel groups are too diverse and not unified under one banner. If the rebels win, there would never be peace because they would fight each other again.

My solution is that if the U.S. stops funding the rebels and maybe instead helps Assad, the rebels would quickly dissolve. The fight would then turn solely to ISIS. If ISIS is destroyed then there would be peace in Syria and Iraq. If there is peace in Syria, the refugee crisis would end and therefore a lesser chance of terrorist attacks. Quick and stable peace even through authoritarianism is better for Syria and the rest of the world than unstable forced democracy.

So, tell me why I'm wrong and what your alternative solution is.
levi_smiles

Con

Thanks, Pro-

Pro's argument is a bit simplistic and omits a number of essential considerations, the most important of which is establishing a benefit to the US. After all, Pro's argument is a proposal to change US foreign policy:

=> Siding with the strongest faction, Assad's govt., will bring peace to Syria;
=> Peace in Syria is of benefit to the US;
=> Therefore, US Foreign Policy should re-align to aid Assad

Pro offers no evidence to support either premise but there are any number of presumptions which Pro needs to address to support the argument. Pro suggests a direct line between action and inevitable result but, as with all US intervention in the Middle East, Syria is an absurd web of political and religious interests complicated by an array of external international proxy interests.

The one lesson US foreign policy should have learned from a century of mostly unproductive involvement in the Middle East is that every action creates a multiplicity of unintended consequences, increasing American complicity and the degree of diplomatic difficulty. The Middle East is a trap: history offers little evidence that any major US initiative in that region produces the desired result. The best course of action, therefore, is to try to do as little as possible while maintaining an illusion of authority and engagement. In other words, the US's current, mostly ineffectual, course of action is as likely to succeed as any and more likely to succeed than any more direct involvement.

1. Is Pro proposing unilateral action?

At present, US intervention in Syria is performed in coordination with a variety of govts., with membership changing depending on context. For example, US aid to refugees is mostly coordinated with Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and the Kurds while airstrikes against ISIS include a coalition of 12 nations who consult with a wide array of other anti-ISIS actors including Russia, Iraq, Kurds, Israel, etc [1]

2. Wouldn't switching sides weaken our present alliances?

Unilateral action in support of Assad would certainly offend membership in these networks, potentially endangering those projects but consultation would also create friction. The US might get the UK on board but France & Germany would object. Most of the US's Middle Eastern allies (Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia), the EU, in fact a majority of the UN voted to condemn Assad and delegitimize his govt. [2] Certainly, any support of Assad's regime would do major harm to our relationships with Turkey and the burgeoning Kurdish state and would be seen as a deep betrayal from the perspective of Sunni states, encouraging the radical anti-American factions in those states (including ISIS).

3. Would Assad even accept American support?

Pro takes Assad's cooperation for granted but fails to consider Syrian contempt for the US. Remember that when Assad govt. buildings were bombed in 2011, Damascenes blamed al-Qaeda but chanted "Death to America." [3] In fact, a Gallup poll in 2015 found that 81% of Syrians believe that ISIS was manufactured by the US, that number rises to 91% in Assad-controlled regions. [4] Damascus is hardly more likely to accept support from the US than they would from ISIS: in Assad's mind and in the mind of most Syrians, the US is just as much an enemy.

Furthermore, Assad's allies might welcome the discontinuation of support to the rebels but Russia, China, Iran, & North Korea would strongly object to any infringement or dilution of those States' influence in Damascus.

4. Can Pro prove that discontinuing aid to the Rebels and/or offering aid to Assad would result in easy victory?

Information about the amount & effectiveness of aid to various rebel groups is extremely sketchy, but we know that the US has not been the rebels' primary benefactor at any point. US aid has consistently prioritized anti-ISIS and pro-Kurdish interests over exclusively anti-Assad forces. Anti-Assadists primarily rely on Turkey as a porous safe-haven for rebel supply, recruitment, and training and on Sunni oil states (Saudi Arabia & Qatar primarily) for cash. Cutting off US aid would hurt the rebels but whether such lack of support might prove decisive is essentially unknowable.

5. Doesn't Assad have the most difficult military objectives of any faction?

Further, consider that Assad is the only faction who is strongly motivated to reabsorb all of the old Syrian territory- Kurds, Rebels, al-Nusra Front, etc would be more likely to content themselves with current territorial gains, more likely to combine in opposition to an ascendant Assad and more likely to just settle for the fall of Assad. Military victory for Assad means winning back most or all territorial loses, which likely means continued war with Kurdistan and a protracted, not lessened war.

6. How does Pro define peace and stability in Syria?

A reconstituted Syria under Assad may signal disengagement for foreign interests but it is hardly likely to mean the end of violence within Syria. The last time Syria successfully suppressed a Sunni uprising in the city of Hama (1982) Assad's father followed up with a punishing ethnic cleansing of up to 40,000 civilians in that city. [5] Violent suppression of opposition groups after the war is virtually guaranteed should Assad succeed. If the US were to support Assad, our allies would certainly hold the US responsible for the massacres that followed.

7. What evidence can Pro offer to ensure that the number of refugees seeking asylum would be reduced?

Assuming that there is a violent crackdown on Sunni factions in the wake of an Assad victory, wouldn't the number of refugees fleeing Syria increase, at least in the short term? Yes, some pro-Assad refugees would return but perhaps 10 million Syrians are currently residing in anti-Assad strongholds [6] and many of that number would see the return of Assad as a mortal threat. We should assume that any significant territorial shift, whichever faction benefits, will be followed by new waves of refugees.

8. What evidence can Pro offer to show that the threat of terrorism would be reduced?

We can agree that an ascendant Assad would likely equate to the suppression of ISIS, but radical Wahhabists are a dime a dozen in the Arab world and ISIS will certainly be succeeded by some other group dreaming of a fundamentalist caliphate, just as al-Qaeda was eclipsed by ISIS. The US is no more likely to win the ephemeral War on Terrorism than it has the War on Drugs.

Further, the US. has deemed Syria a state sponsor of terrorism since the inception of that designation in 1979. Secretaries of State under the previous 6 administrations have produced annual reports justifying that designation. [7] Compared to Syria, ISIS has been relative low-tech and ineffective in its short life. While ISIS fruitlessly shops around for enough spent radioactive material to build a dirty bomb, Israel has already been forced to destroy one Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007 and indications are that a new plant is under construction now. [8] An Assad victory might reduce the terrorist threat against targets like Charlie Hebdo but would certainly increase the threat to Israeli cities.

Besides, there are certain advantages to a continued Syrian War when it comes to fighting terrorism. The War has pitted any number of potential terrorists against one another- Shia vs Sunni, PKK vs. Shia, al-Qaeda vs. ISIS. Yes, some terrorists gained training and experience in that war but many more have been slaughtered. Yes, a few hundred have managed to sneak back into the West to export death but thousands more have exposed their radicalization & are denied any right of return. As cruel as the War is, every year it continues wastes the lives and resources of many more figures who would otherwise seek harm in the West. Peace may not be as universally advantageous to counterterrorism as we might first suppose.

More to consider- but I look forward to Pro's reply to the above in R2.
Debate Round No. 1
newwine

Pro

Thank you con, for accepting this debate and I respect yet disagree with your stance.

1. In response to the questions "Is Pro proposing unilateral action?" and "Wouldn't switching sides weaken our present alliances?"

I believe that America's intervention in Syria is more unilateral when it comes to fighting Assad. The CIA provided arms to Syrian rebels without consulting the UN or other western allies. At present there are no coalitions against Assad's regime. There is only an American-led coalition against ISIS/ISIL. This coalition do not include Russia or Assad. I believe that the coalition should at least formally include Russia which would create more coordinated air strikes against ISIS.

The fact that the UN voted to condemn Assad does not warrant action against his government. The UN would never agree to directly attack Syria even without Russia's veto.

When it comes to Syria as it stands, no one is our true ally. In a hacked Hillary email, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are accused of funding ISIS. Her idea of arming and coordinating with the Kurds already angers all other parties in the region including our "ally" Turkey. The US wants to do too many things at the same time which complicates our alliances. Creating Kurdistan, toppling Assad, and destroying ISIS are all in Obama's foreign policy and no other government in the region shares the same view.

3. In response to "Would Assad even accept American support?"

Assad has already called President-elect Donald Trump a "natural ally" in the fight against terrorism. With the change of administration, Assad would accept talks with Trump.

4. In response to "Can Pro prove that discontinuing aid to the Rebels and/or offering aid to Assad would result in easy victory?"

No, I can't prove or guarantee that changing stances would result in a quick victory. But i can guarantee a victory. If the two greatest military powers in the world work together against one common relatively small enemy, victory is always certain. If the two are at odds, there would never be a quick victory and in this case, the US under Obama's leadership has no path to true victory.

5. In response to "Doesn't Assad have the most difficult military objectives of any faction?"

Assad has the easiest military and political objective of any faction to ensure peace. Splitting the country up would satisfy some factions but would not peaceful for long. The creation of Kurdistan would lead to a series of wars against Iraq and Turkey. Assad by himself would have a hard time fighting all other factions but with Russian support and if the US stops funding and helping the rebels or even gets support of the US, his ability of regaining control over his own country are certain.

6. In response to "How does Pro define peace and stability in Syria?"

Yes, a true dictatorship would emerge following the end of the war. There will be censorship and civil rights would be infringed. But that happens after every civil war. Egypt did it after the Arab Spring led to the election of Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi. After protests, he was overthrown by a coup d'etat led by Abdel el-Sisi which led to a deadly military crackdown of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Libya after the death of Muammar Gaddafi and a few years of peace is now going through another civil war. The main factions there is between the democratically elected Council of Deputies, the Internationally recognized Libyan government, the Islamic General National Congress, and ISIL. Another 4 faction war that was a direct result of US led NATO intervention and its inability to ensure peace after the old government was destroyed.

The US would be partly responsible for the crackdown of anti-Assad dissidents, but as with all of the horrible things that the US is responsible for, it won't reach the cover of a newspaper.

I'd argue that there is always a better chance of stability (i.e. not another civil war) with the current authoritarian secular government under Assad than a new weak western controlled government or a democratically elected radicalized Islamist government.

7. In response to "What evidence can Pro offer to ensure that the number of refugees seeking asylum would be reduced?"

There are two types of refugees. refugees seeking political asylum and refugees fleeing war. If Assad remained in power their would be an increase in refugees seeking political asylum. Since the anti-Assad forces are too diverse and weak individually, these refugees would not be able to gain asylum and would have to live with their choice in rebelling against the government. The refugees fleeing from war would be reduced if there is a lack of war. Once Assad regains control, there would be little motivation for another mass rebellion and therefore little chance of civil war. If Assad loses power, there would be another civil war from a disjointed new government just like in Libya.

8. In response to "What evidence can Pro offer to show that the threat of terrorism would be reduced?"

Al-Qaeda, which is mostly dead now, has only one successful attack on western countries, that is 9/11 attacks. As horrible as they were, there hasn't been a single attack on US soil that was Al-Qaeda inspired or where Al-Qaeda was directly involved in from 9/11 2001 to bin Laden's death in 2011.

Since 2011 there have been multiple Islamist inspired terrorist attacks on US soil including the Boston Marathon bombing, San Benardino Attack, the Orlando nightclub shooting, the New York/New Jersey bombings,and the Minnesota mall attack. ISIS didn't use their limited resources to communicate and coordinate most of these attacks. I don't necessarily say that these attacks are a direct result of ISIS. I would like to suggest that the US intervention in the Middle East after the Arab Spring such as trying to topple the governments of Egypt, Libya, and Syria has led to more conflict and wars in the region then ever before. The use of drone strikes also hasn't helped promote US's moral authority. Joining Russia and Assad to attempt to destroy ISIS quickly and leaving the middle east to its own devices would not guarantee that there would be no more home grown terrorist attacks on US soil. But there would probably never be a terrorist on US soil that cited the US's lack of middle eastern intervention as his reason for an attack.

ISIS should be destroyed for Europe's sake. The attacks on Niece, Paris, and Brussels are a direct result of Syrian refugees pouring into Europe and having an opportunity to causing terrorism. Destroying ISIS would hopefully decrease the platform of Islamic extremism. It doesn't take much training to grab a truck and run through a crowd. It doesn't take more than some searching on the internet and a trip to a hardware store to create a homemade bomb. The only resources that a real terrorist needs on foreign soil is the internet, some money, and the willingness to sacrifice one's self. Having a potential terrorist believing that there would be no reason for an attack would prevent the attack altogether.

Your statement that "Syria a state sponsor of terrorism" is wrong. Assad's secular government wasn't even remotely responsible for any terrorist attack. The US is better off getting friendly with Assad rather than openly denouncing him. Either way Assad is most likely going to win with Russian support with or without the US. Having Assad hate us after the war wouldn't mean terrorist attacks but it would just be another government that we're not friendly with in the middle east. I'd also argue that Israel is safer if Syria is under Assad's regime than under ISIS or some other random rebel regime.

I look forward to con's response to these statements in Round 2.
levi_smiles

Con

Thanks, Pro-

Counterarguments:

1 & 2
Pro argues for a unilateral switching of sides, effectively pitting our support against the diplomatic & military support of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, France, & the UK. Pro argues that our covert intervention in 2012 was essentially unilateral, that we have no formal coalition against Assad, and that our Allies' interest are already out of sync in the region.

The fact is we can't know how much consultation was done prior to CIA intervention because consulting about covert activities is done in secret. I think we can be confident that major players were consulted in secret and approved to the extent that CIA intervention aligned with allied interests. Yes, we have no formal alliance. Yes, Turkey is opposed to Kurdish expansion, but an about face would mean placing our military aid in direct opposition to our friends military aid. How does it benefit US foreign policy to endanger long term alliances in favor of a short term alliance with traditional antagonists? The U.K. Is already begging the US to think twice about such a foolhardy flip-flop. [1]

Consider further that the President-elect has already developed a reputation as an instrument of Russia, "Putin's Puppet" as the Democratic challenger put it during the debates. A sudden re-alignment away from traditional allies towards the current incarnation of Russia authoritarian past would inevitably be portrayed by our allies as confirmation of the new President's weakness: a sidekick, a sycophant, a pet.

Pro states, "Creating Kurdistan, toppling Assad, and destroying ISIS are all in Obama's foreign policy and no other government in the region shares the same view."

This is a significant overstatement. All nations in the region oppose ISIS. Israel supports Kurdistan. Saudi Arabia and even Turkey maintain embassies in Iraqi Kurdistan but oppose expansion in Syria. Sunni states & Turkey want Assad out. Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, & Israel are agnostic: they wouldn't mind Assad's fall to varying degrees but fear a power vacuum.

3. Assad said that "if " if " he fights the terrorists, it is clear that we will be a natural ally, together with the Russians, Iranians and many other countries who want to defeat the terrorists." [2]

Let's remember that when Assad speaks of terrorists, Israel is foremost in his mind:

"There's no contradiction between Israel and any organization like al-Nusra or ISIS or any Al-Qaida-linked organization," said Assad of Israel and rebel groups fighting his regime in Syria.""Anyone, any terrorist who holds a machine gun and started killing and destroying in Syria was supported by Israel, either indirectly through the logistical support on the frontier, or sometimes by direct intervention by Israel against Syria in different areas in Syria." [3]

Assad may look at anti-Semitic history of some the President-elect's appointments and hope for to divide America from Israel but unless Trump is prepared to reject Israel, Assad's affection ought to quickly fade.

4. Pro said, "But i can guarantee a victory. If the two greatest military powers in the world work together against one common relatively small enemy, victory is always certain."

Famous last words. Neither power is willing to commit ground troops and overwhelming force is no sinecure: Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam, the Intifadas, etc.

Pro:"the US under Obama's leadership has no path to true victory."

Because Obama has learned the history lesson that eludes Pro: The quest for victory is the trap.

"There"s no ultimate military victory to be won, we"re going to have to pursue the hard work of the diplomacy that aims to stop the violence and deliver aid to those in need," Obama told the United Nations in Sept. [4]

5. Pro: "Splitting the country up would satisfy some factions but would not peaceful for long. "

Probably not.

Pro: "The creation of Kurdistan would lead to a series of wars against Iraq and Turkey."

Perhaps, perhaps not. Turkey still wants in to the EU and the Kurds have managed to preserve their autonomy in Iraq for 20 years. But the prospect of the US helping a dictator to subjugate the most egalitarian population in the Islamic Middle East would be hard for even the staunchest real-politicker to stomach.

6. Pro: "a true dictatorship would emerge following the end of the war. There will be censorship and civil rights would be infringed. But that happens after every civil war. Egypt did it after the Arab Spring...Libya after the death of Muammar Gaddafi"

But we let those dictators fall & maintained a disengaged interest. Would Pro have had US forces fighting to uphold Gaddafi? To what benefit?

Pro: "The US would be partly responsible for the crackdown of anti-Assad dissidents, but as with all of the horrible things that the US is responsible for, it won't reach the cover of a newspaper."

US papers, perhaps. But on the BBC & Al-Jazeera, the US's reputation would be excoriated.

7. Pro: "There are two types of refugees. refugees seeking political asylum and refugees fleeing war. If Assad remained in power their would be an increase in refugees seeking political asylum. Since the anti-Assad forces are too diverse and weak individually, these refugees would not be able to gain asylum and would have to live with their choice in rebelling against the government. The refugees fleeing from war would be reduced if there is a lack of war."

Pro seems to agree that there might be a short term increase in refugees. I suspect the long term effects are difficult to know and heavily depend on the viability of a post-war Syria. Pro seems confident that Assad can pacify the population and rebuild the country to sustain present population: I see no cause for such optimism.

8 Pro: "Al-Qaeda, which is mostly dead now, has only one successful attack on western countries, that is 9/11 attacks. "

False, but also irrelevant.

Al-Qaeda attacks have successfully targeted Westerners on many occasions before and since 9/11. The Madrid Train Bombings in 2004 killed 190 Europeans, for example. [5]

But irrelevant because Pro seems to not recognize that ISIS is Al-Qaeda- its origins and leadership have their birth in Al-Qaeda in Iraq, inspired by Bin Laden's group which had its origins in US military support for the Afghani Mujahideen. [6]. These and many other radical groups throughout the Middle East are rooted in the extreme modern Salafist and Wahhabist movement dating back 150 years.

The point is that ISIS ideology and tactics are not unique or isolated to the Syrian conflict, but the advantage the US has against ISIS is that it attracts like-minded extremists from many points of origin. ISIS can and should be exterminated but the origins of anti-Western terrorism will never be defeated on a battlefield. It would be mistake to suppose that the end of ISIS represents increased security in the West. Particularly if the US increases its complicity and re-aligns with a Sufi regime like Assad's.

I'll address Syria as a terrorist state & hopefully look at oil interests in the final round. I hope Pro will conclude by specifically addressing how the US stands to benefit from an ascendant Assad.

[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk...
[2] https://www.google.com...
[3] http://www.ibtimes.com...
[4] http://aranews.net...
[5] https://en.m.wikipedia.org...
[6] https://en.m.wikipedia.org...
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