NATO would like to deny Iran its Syrian base but also prevent disintegration while avoiding direct military intervention. It would also like to avoid a peacekeeping mission and nation-building operation, though that may not be possible.
Here's the disintegration nightmare: armed sectarian mini-states, a Kurdish triangle and fragment enclaves of fear and suffering run by neighborhood warlords, each a possible Terror-Stan open to extremist subversion.
Fortunately, there are Syrian rebel leaders who know that the big losers in this hell are the Syrian people. Last week, after months of discussion, Syrian rebel leaders meeting in Turkey formed a national council. It is a diverse group, but an attempt to unify Syrian opposition to the Assad regime. Council representatives hope their organization can funnel international support to rebels inside Syria, countering Iranian support for Assad.
According to The New York Times, the council favors "a multiethnic and pluralist Syria, run without any political emphasis on religion. " That's NATO's optimal outcome. Can it be achieved? Doing so requires regime change in Damascus, continually thwarting Iran and political buy-in by a majority of Syria's citizens. At some point it will also require deploying an international security force inside Syria, to counter vengeful Iranian subversion.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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