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A Case For Military Intervention In Syria


For more on possible options in Syria, we're joined by Thomas P.M. Barnett. He is a former Pentagon analyst who's written in support of military intervention in Syria on Time magazine's Battleland blog. Mr. Barnett's also chief analyst at Wikistrat, a consultancy firm on geopolitical analysis. He joins us from his office in Indianapolis. Mr. Barnett, thanks for being with us.

THOMAS P.M. BARNETT: Thanks for having me on.

SIMON: About a week ago, Mr. Barnett, we were hearing the phrase "tipping point" a lot in reference to the last massacre.


SIMON: And then here we are a week later and the needle towards involvement by the world community doesn't seem to have moved. Why is that?

BARNETT: Well, I think, you know, the reliance on the U.N. blessing has historically been extremely frustrating. When you've seen successful interventions by the international community to prevent bloodshed and to speed the killing and to create all the dynamics that get you to resolution faster, as opposed to in a dragged-out fashion, it's typically been, you know, the executive committee of Western great powers as represented by NATO, not the U.N. Security Council.

I think if you're serious about trying to make democracy happen globally, and when you have a small enough power and you have the capacity to pursue this option of getting rid of a bad government and further enabling the spread of a democratization wave in the Middle East, I think great powers in the West should take advantage of it simply because they can. They don't need any other arguments than that.

SIMON: What about the concern that arming the rebels would just increase the velocity of killing and usher in a prolonged civil war?

BARNETT: It is going to increase the velocity of killing. The reality as I describe it in the situations is often - you have so much killing that's going to occur between here and the desired/inevitable outcome. You can either speed that killing or you can traumatize the society by dragging it out. So I think getting it over faster is usually a better argument.

SIMON: And what do you say to those Americans, Mr. Barnett, who say I'm just tired. I'm just tapped out.

BARNETT: Well, we're not talking about U.S. troops on the ground. And I think historically we've got to recognize...

SIMON: Well, but we are talking about a commitment of U.S. money and U.S. assets.

BARNETT: Sure. Well, I mean, in a civil war that erupts without our complicity or involvement on any level, you're also going to have costs. You're going to have costs for refugees and for whatever disruption that creates throughout the region. I think you got to look at it in the big perspective, understand that the Arab Spring has unfolded in a, as I like to describe it, one damn thing after another sort of a sequence that's actually very helpful.

You know, so we start with Tunisia. We go to Egypt. We have Libya as the one thing we worry and focus on. Now, we're on Syria. It will still stay stuck there until we step in and process it. Then, potentially good things can happen to reduce Iran's influence in Lebanon and perhaps we see that dynamic turn on Tehran itself eventually. So processing this one damn thing after another, it's tiresome, but it's how we successfully processed ultimately the Balkans.

It's how we successfully processed the revolutions in Eastern Europe in 1989. You can either be involved or not involved, but the costs are going to accrue to you one way or the other and they're usually cheaper through acts or sins, let's say, of commission versus omission.

SIMON: Thomas P.M. Barnett is a former Pentagon analyst and currently chief analyst at Wikistrat and he also writes for Time magazine's Battleland blog. Thanks very much for being with us.

BARNETT: Thanks for having me on. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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