Intervention in Syria is a Bad Idea

In response to contributors to Prospect Magazine who still advocate intervention in Syria on “moral” grounds, Hugh Winter submitted this comment:

President Obama’s concept of a ‘surgical strike’ against Syria cannot be classified as meeting a ‘responsibility to protect’. The Libyan intervention, for example, involved a forcible disarmament of the regime by prolonged bombing; civilians were protected, and it led to regime change.  A ‘surgical strike’, in contrast, would not protect Syrians from their government.

Those who call upon the example of Libya when calling for intervention in Syria would presumably call for further bombing when they realised that civilians were still being killed after a ‘surgical strike’; they would probably hope that regime change would follow.  And regime change would create a situation like that in Iraq, now 10 years after its regime was toppled, where there is continuing sectarian violence: 4,574 civilian deaths last year, and 4,137 up to the end of July this year, according to the Iraq Body Count and the BBC respectively.

Arming the opposition in Syria would pour fuel on the flames and cause even more deaths.  Supported by Russia, the Assad regime is going to ensure its survival by using conventional weapons.  Pursuing disarmament, by contrast, would be an attempt to stem the escalation of violence.  A ceasefire is needed.

A civil war can only be ended by negotiation, and Assad would have to be involved.  We in the West might not like his regime, but peace is the first priority – and negotiations might lead to power-sharing or devolution.  The rebels are ill-advised to insist upon his resignation as a pre-condition for negotiations.

It would subsequently be necessary to prosecute any individuals who have been responsible for crimes against humanity – irrespective of whether or not that would mean indicting Assad in person.


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