Into Syria without Arms
NEW YORK – Much of the debate over what to do in the Middle East tends to pit realists against idealists. Bahrain is a classic case, as is Saudi Arabia and, for that matter, Egypt: calls for the United States and other countries with interests and influence in the region to stand up for democracy and human rights run up against concerns that national-security interests will suffer if pro-Western authoritarian regimes are ousted. European and US policymakers often attempt to square the circle with a compromise policy that is inconsistent and satisfies no one.
Syria offers a stark contrast to this pattern in the sense that strategic and humanitarian interests are aligned. Many governments have a strategic desire to oust a regime that is closely allied with Iran and Hezbollah. And there is a humanitarian desire to get rid of a regime that has killed as many as 15,000 – if not more – of its own people.
But an armed intervention would be a large undertaking, one requiring not just considerable air power (given Syria’s extensive air-defense network) but also ground forces, given the existence of at least two capable divisions that remain loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. The sectarian nature of Syrian society all but guarantees that the presence of troops from other countries would be both prolonged and difficult.
We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.
To continue reading, subscribe now.
Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.
Already have an account or want to create one? Log in