WASHINGTON, DC – A recent front-page photo in the New York Times of a boatload of Syrian refugees drifting on the Mediterranean Sea beneath an enormous setting sun could not have been more apt. The sun seems to be setting on Syria itself.
In the words of David Miliband, a former British foreign secretary and current president of the International Rescue Committee, the disaster in Syria has reached “almost biblical proportions.” The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates that, over the last four years, nearly 250,000 people have been killed, including more than 100,000 civilians, many of whom were killed in horrific ways by their own government. The United Nations estimates that over half of the country’s 22 million citizens have left their homes, something the world has not seen since World War II. Today’s rising tide of disease, hunger, squalor, and illiteracy – more than half of the refugee children are not in school – will affect an entire generation for life.
Fortunately, the United States’ foreign-policy elite finally seems ready to do something to protect Syria’s people. Generals, diplomats, national-security officials, and development professionals are approaching a consensus in favor of a no-fly “safe zone” along one of Syria’s borders.
In fact, Turkey’s government proposed such a sanctuary (calling it a “buffer zone”) four years ago. But the Turkish authorities never proved willing to turn words into action – not that they received any encouragement. Indeed, until recently, the US and most NATO countries were resolutely opposed to the idea.