The case against non-intervention in Syria


On Monday, March 5, Senator John McCain called for a joint coalition of countries, led by the United States, to intervene in Syria via surgical airstrikes that would facilitate the creation of safe havens “in which opposition forces can organise and plan their political and military activities against Assad.” The following day, in the course of his first press conference of the year, President Obama ruled out “unilateral” military intervention in Syria (never mind that McCain had mentioned Saudi Arabia, U.A.E., Jordan, Qatar, the E.U. and NATO as preferable allies), saying that his administration was still committed to a diplomatic solution to Assad’s year-long campaign of repression, which has claimed an estimated 9,000 lives, according to the United Nations.

However, Obama appears to have tacitly shifted his approach to Syria somewhat from a day earlier when one anonymous administration official told Foreign Policy magazine that Washington was looking to “invest…in a much deeper sense with the opposition” by directly providing humanitarian aid and communications equipment. More crucially, this
source added, the US would not “openly oppose direct military assistance” to the Syrian rebels provided it came from other countries. Qatar and Saudi Arabia have both expressed a willingness to supply arms to the rebels, and the semi-recognised Syrian National Council (SNC) has lately created a military bureau to handle the distribution of weapons.

In short, greater US involvement in Syria is inevitable, although the form it will take is not, largely because the attendant debate about the wisdom or legitimacy of a direct military intervention — a debate argued out in various magazine symposia — has tended to cloud as much as clarify the nature of this crisis and what awaits if Assad’s campaign of mass murder, arbitrary arrest, torture, rape and dispossession is allowed to continued unchecked. Yet many of the arguments for non-intervention that have been invoked and recapitulated at the highest level of government are either unconvincing or they apply equally, if not more so, if the United States refuses to help hasten the fall of the Assad regime.


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About the authors:

Michael Weiss is Director of Communications and Public Relations at the HJS. A widely published journalist, Weiss has expertise in the Israel-Palestine conflict and human rights in the Middle East. He recently wrote HJS’s Media Briefing: “Fatah-Hamas Reconciliation: A Preliminary Assessment”. Weiss has been published in Slate, The Wall Street Journal,
The Weekly Standard, The Daily Telegraph, The New Criterion, The Guardian, Foreign Policy, Prospect, Standpoint, Democratiya and The New Republic. He keeps a regular blog on foreign policy and the Middle East for the Daily Telegraph and one on culture for The New Criterion.

Ilhan Tanir is a Washington reporter for the Turkish Daily Vatan and is a columnist for Hurriyet Daily News. He has written extensively on the Syrian uprising in these outlets as well as the Christian Science Monitor, and Fikra Forum. He recently returned from a two week trip to Syria where he met with members of the Free Syrian Army and activists in the Damascus suburbs, before he was arrested by the regime forces and deported. He received his Master’s degree from George Mason University in 2006 in Public Administration and International Management, and his BA from Ankara University’s Political Science School in Turkey.


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