Last August, shortly after the chemical attacks outside Damascus, the military strategist, Edward Luttwak, wrote in the New York Times:
[A] decisive outcome for either side [in Syria] would be unacceptable for the United States. An Iranian-backed restoration of the Assad regime would increase Iran’s power and status across the entire Middle East, while a victory by the extremist-dominated rebels would inaugurate another wave of Al Qaeda terrorism.
There is only one outcome that the United States can possibly favor: an indefinite draw.
By tying down Mr. Assad’s army and its Iranian and Hezbollah allies in a war against Al Qaeda-aligned extremist fighters, four of Washington’s enemies will be engaged in war among themselves and prevented from attacking Americans or America’s allies.
Last night’s edition of Frontline, broadcast on PBS, reported on a covert CIA program to arm the rebels in Syria, giving every indication that President Obama has taken Luttwak’s advice to heart.
A small training program combined with a trickle of weapons and ammunition — none capable of challenging Assad’s air supremacy — seems designed to have no effect other than prolong the war.
A rebel commander interviewed by Frontline said this about the Americans he had been trained by:
“The impression I got from their support is that they don’t actually want us to defeat the regime, but they don’t want the regime to defeat us either.”
“They told us they would train 30 to 40,000 men. I asked them: ‘How can you ever train that many if our training courses are limited to 85 recruits at a time?” In a year you can only train a thousand recruits. You would have to keep training men for 30 or 40 years. Is the revolution going to go on for that long?'”
Watch the complete Frontline report, “Syria: Arming the Rebels.”