Photo: Wikipedia Commons
As the civilian death toll in Syria continues to climb, the call for military action is growing.Marc Lynch just published a paper for the centre for a New American Security where he lays out why getting involved militarily in Syria could be a big, sticky mess.
Basically, Lynch says that reacting to the 6,000 dead Syrian civilians is natural and military response may feel like the sound moral choice, but it’s not.
By the most recent reports, Syria has in its arsenal:
- 4,950 main battle tanks
- 2,450 infantry fighting vehicles (BMPs)
- 1,500 more armoured personnel carriers
- 3,440+ pieces of artillery
- 600,000 men under arms in the active and reserve forces (via Abu Muqawama)
Here are the military options as Lynch sees them.
- No-Fly Zones:
- Can’t be established without calling in air strikes to knock out Syrian air defenses. They will incur huge civilian casualties
- An NFZ is irrelevant because Assad has not yet used aircraft in his crackdown, and he wouldn’t much miss the loss of his airspace
- Air Strikes:
- These would take two forms: a quick punitive hit, largely symbolic, to express international moral outrage, or, an extended air campaign like the one in Libya
- The first could either disrupt a fragile regime or rally Syrians around Assad, the second would destroy huge civilian areas
- Safe Areas:
- A place where the opposition can establish headquarters, a Safe Area around a city like Homs would require direct military intervention and a possible long-term commitment to troops on the ground
- Humanitarian corridors, much discussed lately for getting aid to civilians, would be hard to defend and could result in a huge refugee crisis
- Armed Observers
- Though an option endorsed by the Arab League Feb. 11, Armed Observers would require total cooperation from the Syrian government and should only be considered after a political transition is reached
- Arming The Opposition:
- The Free Syria Army wants advanced weapons and communications gear and the U.S., France, and the UK may decide to provide it themselves rather than wait for it to trickle in uncontrolled, but…
- These arms will never match the power of Assad’s regime. And they will create a much bloodier conflict, increase the fragmentation of the opposition, and make a “soft landing” nearly impossible
- Airstrikes will be discussed if the armed opposition fails. So arming the opposition should be looked at as a step toward military intervention
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