Sorry, not now Messieurs Doran and Boot

Sorry, not now Messieurs Doran and Boot

In an article titled “The case for intervening in Syria,” in the International Herald Tribune on Sept. 28, Michael Doran and Max Boot wrote that the United States could use a “lead from behind” approach in this messy conflict. I met Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a think tank, a couple of times in Washington at events there, but did not meet Doran, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. I had probably already returned home when he was in the U.S. capital.

Self-identifying himself as a conservative, Boot is also an adviser to Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate. His 2006 book, “War Made New, Technology, Warfare and the Course of History, 1500 to Today” was excellent and he, as an influential military historian, is a prominent advocate for American power.

“The focus could be on Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city and commercial hub. The Free Syrian Army already controls much of the territory and the Turkish border, only 65 kilometers away,” Messieurs Boot and Doran said. “With American support, Turkish troops could easily establish a corridor for humanitarian aid and military supplies. Defeating the government’s forces in Aleppo would deal a serious blow to Mr. [Bashar] al-Assad’s forces and send a powerful message to fence-sitters that the regime was dying,” they said.

“Mr. al-Assad has been using jets and helicopters to fight the rebels; a no-fly zone would quickly ground his entire air force. The zone could then be extended to provide the kind of close air support that NATO warplanes provided to rebel fighters in Kosovo and Libya,” they continued.

This is the most open call to Turkey, which already kind of seems willing to provide direct support to Syria’s Sunni Muslim fighters.

But an American-based pro-Israeli think tank, the Middle East Media Research Institute, released a paper on Oct. 1 by N. Moses titled “Pro- and anti-Assad camps share concerns over Syria’s possible disintegration into separate sectarian, ethnic entities” in which the author voiced worries that Syrian territory could be divided into separate parts.

It said the country’s northeastern sector could be a Kurdish area, while Syria’s western, Latakia-based areas could go to the Alawites, southern areas could be a Druze sector, while the country’s large central sectors could be Sunni-dominated in a Balkanized Syria.

Regardless of the possibility of Syria’s disintegration, Doran’s and Boots plans for a Turkish intervention also run into major energy problems.

In addition to Russia’s still-unclear role in the Syrian downing of a Turkish RF-4 fighter on June 22, Russia and Iran are Turkey’s two largest natural gas suppliers, and at a time when the Middle East’s vicious winter is approaching, Turkey would not dare to go against these two countries.

The United States likes to fight wars on the “cheap side.” But it would not be enough to provide our army with – indeed the much-needed – three AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). It should seriously think about giving MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicles to the Turkish military.

So Messieurs Doran and Boot, it would be better to approach the Turkish option when next spring approaches and the extra-bad effects of the winter vanish.

But the fact that Boot is an adviser to Mitt Romney could be a factor suggesting that the Republican candidate could embrace a “lead from behind” approach if he wins on Nov. 6.