Every once in a while, the neoconservatives trot out crusty old Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld’s deputy at the Department of Defense in the first administration of George W. Bush and a venerable old hawk. The neoconservative old guard, led by Richard Perle, has mostly disappeared into oblivion as a new, neocon youth wing emerges from the stomachs of various think tanks, like the creatures in the "Alien" horror movies. This time, however, Wolfowitz himself has appeared, to call for war against Syria.
I don't think President Obama is listening, yet—but the pressure for war is building.
In an op-ed in the Washington Post, which is leaning increasingly in a neocon direction anyway, Wolfowitz calls on Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary-general and current top diplomat on the crisis in Syria, to resign and get out of the way so that the United States can go bombs-away. Never mind that Annan is the one person whose faltering yet creative diplomacy might yet bring Washington, Moscow and even Tehran into alignment over ending the civil war in Syria. Writes Wolfie:
The Post’s Jim Hoagland reported on this page last month that a European diplomat told him: “Kofi will not go on forever providing cover for others.… His resignation would allow the world to see very clearly what Russia is doing—and what the United States is not doing—that makes them both complicit in the killing of a nation. But he also knows resignation is a gun with only one bullet.” Annan should fire that bullet and stop providing the United States and other self-described “friends of Syria” with excuses for inaction. But whether or not he does, the United States and others cannot blame their failure on Annan. It is long past time to confront the real policy choices.
Those choices, Wolfowitz tells us, are: arm the rebels, create US-protected safe zones in Turkey, and begin an Libya-style bombing campaign.
To their credit, neither Annan nor the UN are giving up. General Robert Mood, the top UN military officer on Syria, said yesterday that the UN has gotten assurances from Damascus that it is still open to a diplomatic solution:
Addressing reporters in the Syrian capital of Damascus, the UN Chief Military Observer in the country, Major-General Robert Mood said Wednesday the Syrian Government had indicated a clear commitment to a peace plan aimed at ending the violence there, and reiterated the commitment of the United Nations to helping the people of Syria.
“I received from the Government a very clear commitment to the six-point plan,” Major-General Mood, who also heads the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), said after an earlier meeting with a Syrian Government working group, led by Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mikdad.
The New York Times has a cogent analysis of Russia’s continuing stance opposed to the toppling of President Assad’s government, noting that Russia is moving away from Assad at a “glacial pace.” The Times notes that Putin is calculating his and Russia’s interests in deciding which way to go:
The answer will hinge on the calculations of Mr. Putin. He may judge that bending to Western pressure would hurt him more than losing Syria. Or, if he accepts the idea that Mr. Assad cannot extend his rule past the end of the year, he may seek to trade Russia’s stand for a concession.
Which is exactly why Annan should stick around. If Russia can be coaxed into some sort of peace plan that works, and if the United States in return stops trying to micromanage what the next government of Syria looks like, maybe the violence will end. Doing that is Annan’s job, and it’s not being made any easier by shrill American calls for Assad’s head and by the discredited views of Wolfowitz and Co.