This is where the Sunni Arab states are truly engaged. Damascus is a city of religious and cultural sanctity to Muslim Arabs. The barbarism inflicted on the Syrians by their Alawite rulers is an affront to Sunni governments and people alike. The arrival of an American chief diplomat keen to ride into the windmills of an old, stale conflict is, to them, as good a testimony as any on the erosion of U.S. power.
“Bad guys” on both sides, jihadis hoisting black flags atop small emirates of their own, the specter of a “failed state” on the shores of the Mediterranean – we are wise to stay out, say the Obamians. Our highest soldier, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, has just laid out the choices and the costs in Syria — train and assist the opposition, conduct limited strikes against sensitive regime targets, establish a no-fly zone, create buffer zones across the Jordanian and Turkish borders, control chemical weapons. No less than an act of war awaits us, the general warned, in a time of budget cuts and fiscal uncertainty. From this menu emerged the real choice: “none of the above.”
Deep into their third year of grief, the Syrians know better than to expect deliverance from the pre-eminent Western power. Amid the wreckage of their country, and in the forsaken refugee camps that have become home to 2 million people, they know they are on their own. They have been schooled in the doublespeak and the evasions of those who could have aided them but chose not to do so.
Fouad Ajami is a senior fellow at the Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and author of “The Syrian Rebellion.”