There was a lot of political, human and monetary capital expended during the Arab Spring. Now Syria has boiled over. There are few options:
- ignore Syria,
- increase sanctions gradually,
- increase sanctions rapidly,
- arm the rebels, and
- support the rebels.
None of the options are easy or sure of any good result. All of them will cost the lives of thousands more human beings in Syria. Are they collateral damage or something important we should protect?
I think part of being human is looking out for humans and watching thousands being slaughtered in a host of ugly ways is unacceptable to me. I think the option that minimizes human casualties is the right one and that involves supporting the rebels. Taking out Assad’s artillery and airforce as necessary is the highest priority. Consider it a sanction with extreme prejudice but the multiplier effect of artillery is too great to ignore. The ugly business of taking back the streets requires equipment and trained people on the ground. Make sure to send in sniper rifles and trainers in how to use them. Then send in food and water and medical help.
The time for more talk is over.
Libya is the closest example of how this can work. The slow process there doubled the number of casualties. Do the same thing but quicker. The cost in capital is trivial compared to the cost in lives. The political fallout is for the Syrians to decide on their own. We should not let fear of political change in Syria prevent action today. Get the violence over quickly so reasonable people can take charge. The longer the violence lasts, the fewer reasonable people will be left.