Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Failed State, Then the Spread of War

We avoid war at all costs in part because the best way to minimize the chances of war in the future is for everyone to avoid the experience of war now. But the spread of war from the failed state in Syria to two more or less functioning countries, first Lebanon and now Iraq, shows that this idea of avoiding war is not nearly as simple as it seems in happier times. Iraq will not fall to a ragtag foreign army bent on destroying it, but this is a war that it does not appear to have the option of avoiding. While it is never easy to answer the challenge of a failed state, one point to consider is that the cost of intervening in the problems of a failed state can be tiny compared to the costs of a heavily armed fight to the death. It has been three years since the old regime of Syria controlled any substantial part of that country. It is easy to imagine that there was time to do something constructive in Syria during the intervening time — though, as I said, it is a little harder to say specifically what might have been done.