A prominent conservative strategist said Monday that a victory for either side in Syria's civil war would be bad news for the United States, as he slammed fellow conservatives for criticizing President Obama's "prudent caution."
"At this point, a prolonged stalemate is the only outcome that would not be damaging to American interests," Edward N. Luttwak, a military strategist who has been consulted by the Pentagon and NATO, wrote in an op-ed article in The New York Times.
The comments came as the Obama administration wrestles with a response to the reported use of chemical weapons last week, apparently by the regime of President Bashar Assad.
It would be "disastrous" if Mr. Assad's regime were to crush the rebellion and emerge victorious, Mr. Luttwak said.
"Mr. Assad's triumph would dramatically affirm the power and prestige of Shiite Iran and Hezbollah, its Lebanon-based proxy — posing a direct threat both to the Sunni Arab states and to Israel."
But Mr. Assad's defeat by the insurgency "would also be extremely dangerous for the United States and for many of its allies in Europe and the Middle East." Many of the rebel factions are extremists, including at least two groups aligned with al Qaeda
If the rebels win, extremists would try to form a government that would be hostile to both the United States and Israel, said Mr. Luttwak, a scholar at the Center of Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Mr. Luttwak, the author of "Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace," also dings fellow conservatives who have criticized the president's reluctance to intervene.
"Those who condemn the president's prudent restraint as cynical passivity must come clean with the only possible alternative: a full-scale American invasion to defeat both Mr. Assad and the extremists fighting against his regime," Mr. Luttwak writes.
A U.S.occupation of Syria would enjoy support from "very few Americans today," he concluded.
David Schenker of the Washington Institute for Near East Politics said on "The Diane Rehm Show" on WAMU-FM that Mr. Luttwak's article is "cynical and disturbing."
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