Retired U.S. Marine Colonel: Work with Russians to Prevent Worse Disaster In Syria
September 25, 2012 • 10:37AM

Retired U.S. Marine Col. Gary Anderson, who served in Somalia, Lebanon, and as an adviser to the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan, has intervened to urge open U.S. collaboration with Russia to reach a negotiated peace in Syria that is analogous to the settlement of the El Salvador civil war in the 1980s. There has to be an urgent alternative to "drone strikes" or a "no-fly zone" he says. Without naming it, Anderson is actually endorsing the Russia-crafted ceasefire and negotiations plan at the UN conference months ago while the Kofi Annan mission was still in force.

"As much as I hate to admit it, the Russians are probably right in trying to prevent an outright rebel victory. They see the unintended consequences more clearly than our neo-hawks who are urging military intervention," Anderson wrote in the "The Best Defense" blog on Foreign Policy (emphasis added). "[T]hose of us who are veterans of Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan know the horror that can ensue when governance breaks down completely...."

Colonel Anderson warns that "The real humanitarian disaster would come with a total government collapse and rebel victory because there are 'at risk' minorities in the path of the mostly Sunni revolution. The Christians and the Shi'ite Alawites risk the fate of Iraq's Sunnis and Christians in the wake of the decapitation of the Sunni-dominated Saddam Hussein regime. Like Iraq's Sunni minority, the Alawite minority in Syria will likely be targets of a revenge seeking Sunni majority...."

"There is an argument that we should do something in Syria, if only to have some leverage in what comes after," he concludes. "However, before that something becomes drone strikes or a no fly zone, we ought to give diplomacy one more chance. El Salvador avoided the kind of bloodletting that we saw in Afghanistan and Iraq after regime decapitation. If the United States backs off on the demand for total regime change, we open our nation can have a critical role in a negotiated settlement. The only thing that gets wasted in trying diplomacy is words."