Truman National Security Project

Syrian Intervention Would Prevent an Escalation of Butchery


To date, some 105,000 Syrian citizens have been killed by the Syrian Army. When the Arab Spring swept through North Africa and the Middle East two years ago, the Syrians wanted the same: decent jobs, a non-dictatorial government, and a legal system not built on bribes and nepotism. Instead, while the world watched, they were shot in the streets.

With the world doing nothing, Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian dictator, increased the killings and brutality, but last weekend equaled the brutality of Saddam Hussein by allegedly gassing 1,300 of his citizens, many of them women and children.

Frankly, President Obama erred two years ago in not robustly showing Assad there were would be limits to his brutality. America forgets that in 2011 it was American-French-Danish-United Arab Emirates air power that stopped the Qaddafi military and enabled the rebel citizenry to overthrow Moammar Gadhafi. No American troops entered the country; the major blow was delivered by the Marine Corps when seven Marine Harriers from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (flying off the USS Kearsarge) overflew Libya, dropped to tree-top level, and used their incredible firepower to halt the Gadhafi army outside of Benghazi. No Tarawa-style beach assault — all it took were seven Marine Harrier jets and seven Marine pilots. Obama should have sent Assad a message by bombing Syrian army headquarters or similar irreplaceable military targets that demonstrated the world’s interest in him making peace with his citizens.

It’s important to remember that unlike Bush’s poorly-conceived war against Saddam, the goal is not regime change, but rather force Assad to the negotiating table. Having the finite goal of suppressing the Syrian army, as opposed to deposing Assad, should keep this from turning into a regional firestorm as Turkey, Israel, and Jordan are already working quietly to contain the issue locally.

Obtaining UN “permission” is unnecessary; Russia and/or China will veto any call for sanctions in order to stymie the United States, so the lack of a UN resolution has no moral issue. But there is an easier option: a localized coalition of America-France-Arab League-UK. With the Arab League’s 22 countries calling for help in stopping Assad’s atrocities, there is no West vs. Islam-card for Assad to play.

An adroit use of air power can accomplish this; degrading the Syrian army’s ability to kill civilians enables the rebel citizenry to either take a seat with Assad or change the regime — but with the choice being theirs and not one forced on Syria by us.

While the Syrian women and children are equally dead if killed by a bullet fired by a Syrian soldier or killed in a gas attack, killing by gas is evidence of a planned genocide. It’s important to establish the parameters of warfare as extremist combatants keep pressing the boundaries. The question is: If a chemical weapons attack goes unchecked, is the next attack not biological or nuclear? The time to stop Assad is now and it’s with air power directed initially at Syrian army leaders.

Andrew Lubin is a contributing writer for the Doctrine. Views expressed are his own. This article originally appeared on Yahoo News.