This is a contribution to ‘What Should the United States Do About Syria?: A TNR Symposium.’ This symposium was convened to consider the question of what the United States should do about the crisis in Syria. And yet, most of the contributions have been about a narrower concern: what the U.S. can do. It is a sign that uppermost in the minds of most Americans are the limits of American power. Certainly they are uppermost in President Obama’s mind. But what I can’t stop thinking about are the consequences of allowing the Assad regime to prevail in Syria.
I have just returned from southern Iraq. It was the first time I had set foot in that part of my country since 1966. Back then, I used to accompany my father, dean of the School of Architecture in the University of Baghdad’s College of Engineering, while he led groups of his students on tours to study the architecture of the south. Two years later, a coup brought the Baath Party to power, eventually leading to the rule of Saddam Hussein. I was both elated to be back and heartbroken at what I saw this time in the wake of the tyrant’s downfall.