Should the West Intervene?

This is a tough issue that CFR’s Paul Stares observes faces potential mission creep, the loss of impartiality, and the need for international support–meaning a frank discussion about who pays for what in terms of military support, funding, and political support:

Freelance journalist Benjamin Hall isn’t optimistic in an Op-Ed titles “Among hte Snipers of Aleppo”:

And even with a no-fly zone, it’s hard to see a way out of this quagmire. Turkey has been in discussions with the rebels and the government about the possibility of beginning a peace process, but it seems unlikely at this point that the rebels will stop until they have taken Damascus.

So for all the horrors on the ground, it seems almost impossible that the United States and Europe can do much to help while the future is so blurred and so bleak. As President Bill Clinton once said, “Where our values and our interests are at stake, and where we can make a difference, we must act.”

Despite what I have witnessed, I am not convinced we can in Syria.

via Western Intervention in Syria –


13 thoughts on “Should the West Intervene?”

  1. Everyone knows that intervening in Syria and toppling the Assad regime will be very beneficial for the West as this will cripple down the the presence of radical Islamists in the region.

    On the other hand, Iran knows that if it looses Assad, then they will be the next prime target. Syria is their first line of defense. If the Syrian regime is toppled down, they will be left with no allies in the region.

    Russia, China and many other countries on the region are already fed up by America’s intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq. Situation would have been worse if the US military had involved directly in the Arab spring.

    This calls in for witty diplomacy from the United States, if it is to intervene in Syria. Topping down the regime and replacing it with allies in power will be greatly beneficial but it will also cost billions of dollars and a more anxious and humiliated China and Russia.

    PS: Iran is one of the major oil supplier of China.

    1. My comment isn’t as directly related to the article but I like one of the points that Ankit brings up at the end. As the US is developing natural gas and other sources of fuel, China is getting more reliant on the Middle East. Historically China has opposed the US on political grounds but now China is building economic ties with countries like Iran and those are much stronger than political ones. This is something the US needs to keep in mind. Now as the US is putting more pressure on Iran, China still buys the oil.
      Also India is in the same position as China and that is something US should keep in mind.

  2. The author used this quote, “President Bill Clinton once said, “Where our values and our interests are at stake, and where we can make a difference, we must act.” to try and make his point that he did not see a way that we could make a difference. I think this is an interesting comment since we can always make a difference. It doesnt just call for witty diplomacy by the US but it calls for bold diplomacy. Are we going to stand up for our values and our interests or will we chose a different route that is much safer? I liked the idea of trying to level the playing field with a no fly zone. We must do our best to achieve peace and that will only come through open negotiations that are focused on finding an answer that will work and make a difference.

    An interesting article that talks about the hope for peace in syria.

  3. Any action must be taken lightly and with careful planning, as there are serious issues that could prove fatal in the future. In particular is the fact that there are some 140 independent rebel groups within Syria, and destabilizing the Assad regime without a clear successor will create an anarchic power vacuum which could cause as much trouble as we are already seeing. That being said, the length and severity of the conflict makes intervention imperative. This article asserts that the US (it must be the US, because any security council action would be indefinitely vetoed by Russia) were to take action, it would have most of the world behind it, including and especially the middle east, which signifies a drastic change in status quo there.

  4. I agree with Andy, I think that we need to carefully consider the consequences of possible courses of action because it is a complicated issue. Kofi Annan recently gave an interesting interview where he claims that military intervention would be a mistake because of the complexity of Syria (
    However, Mitch’s “bold diplomacy” is also relevant to the discussion. A recent UN report details how the sanctions on Syria have devastated care available to children in the warring nation (,0,359807.story). Therefore, I think that bold and swift action should be taken to alleviate the suffering of the innocent, but we should wait until there is a rebel faction with enough national leadership before getting involved militarily.

  5. The point the author of this article is making is that the opposition forces in Syria are fragmented to the point that “every couple of streets in Aleppo is under the watch of a different brigade, and while they sometimes work together, they are just as often at odds.” He cites lack of leadership and trust. How can we intervene if we are not sure who we are fighting for, or with?

    The author also mentions that “no one would be happier to see America mired in the country than Iran, which sees a chaotic Syria as the next best thing to an allied Syria.” He is implying that US intervention would add to the chaos that already exists. I’m not sure if that is necessarily the case, but it might not help get rid of the chaos either. It seems that cooperation among rebel groups would be a step in the right direction.

    9 reasons why intervention is a bad idea:

    This article is a former US Marine’s account of the disorganization among Syrian rebels:

    Another article with Kofi Annan’s take on intervention:

  6. This is an incredibly touchy issue. The main problem that I see with intervening in Syria is the question about just who we are assisting. The Syrian government is committing terrible crimes and has for years and needs to be removed. However, the Free Syrian Army has had little success in establishing a united front against the government. Infighting is frequent between fighter groups among rebels. Additionally, there is growing evidence that many of the rebel fighters are more fundamentalist and may have ties to extremist groups. Should the rebels be able to form a coherent organization, uniting the fighter groups and their commanders, and move away from the fundamentalist stance, the West would be more likely to intervene. Until it can pull together and resist the extremist pull, Western military intervention in Syria is a longshot.

  7. I was only able to find one internet article on it, but special interests are playing a large role in this war.
    My best friend in high school is from Syria and she contacted me this summer about raising funds for the victims. She had been in touch with the Red Crescent and they desperately needed funding to help the victims even with the most basic of necessities.
    My friend and I started brainstorming for fundraising, looked into creating a non profit, and began looking at all the legal steps necessary to send the money over to the victims through the Red Crescent.
    Not one month after the Red Crescent asked us to help, they called again and said to pull the plug on it (not the Red Crescent officially but our contact to them). We were surprised about it and asked why; they explained to us that it was because of the special interests now present in all the fighting.
    The government is awful, but the rebel ranks are now plagued by those hoping to benefit from the war. Our contact explained to us that the war was no longer a struggle for liberty, but a struggle for power and influence – thus he asked us to not provide funding because he was sure that very little of it would go to the actual victims and most of it would go towards corrupt third parties now embeded in the war.

    Over the months the war has dragged on I’ve looked for pieces that touch this subject, but not much has been written on it. It is a little disapointing not to see it, but the updates I get are that the third parties and their interests have only gotten worse.

    Anyway, here’s the closest article I could find on special interests affecting the Syrian civil war, from a Russian journalist no less.

  8. I feel like the consensus among most americans is that we should not intervene in the conflict. What is going on is a civil war, a battle amongst its own citizens. Had this been a conflict of Jordan or Israel invading Syria in attempt to topple the Ashad regime, then the US and other countries would most certainly have the responsability of intervening. But seeing as this is their battle, the most we can and should do is to help indirectly with the no-fly zones and through other diplomatic means. The US did not expect other countries to come help us fight during our very own civil war. Now, if it gets to the point where one side begins to purposefully murder innocent citizens on a large scale or something of that nature, then the game changes. For now, the US needs to continue its attempts to end the conflict through peace talks and other non-violent means.
    This is the link to a discussion between panelists on whether or not the US should intervene

  9. President Al-Assad has got to go–there have been over 30,000 civilian deaths, but I don’t think the US should send troops. Instead, we should help to establish a no-fly zone and work on Syria that way. We don’t want to start another war in Afghanistan and have this turn into a major long-term expense and I think sending troops in might do that. I think the US should provide leadership in the international community by encouraging other Middle Eastern countries like Turkey and Jordan to take a bigger role in helping to overthrow Assad. It is in their interest because they are having thousands of refugees flee across their borders and it is just out of control. The violence and killing needs to stop, and I think it will do so when Al-Assad is gone. The Arab League has already said that al-Assad should go, check this out:

  10. As of mid-October 2012, a staggering 30,000 Syrians have died since the conflict erupted a short 18 months ago. The pace of the death is quickening as more than half of the reported deaths have accorded in the last 5 months. The uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, which began in March 2011 as peaceful protests, has descended into civil war since rebels took up arms against a security force crackdown. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports 30,716 people were killed. Most of them – at least 21,534 – were civilians.” With the violence spiking rapidly in recent months as rebel forces spread, taking the fight across the country and into Syria’s two major cities, the capital Damascus and business hub Aleppo, which combine have a population of nearly 3.5 million, the civilian casualties are sure to rise.
    Something needs to be done. The only problem is that all the clear options seem like clearly bad options. Even in the presidential debate last night both the president and Mr Romney seems confused about how to proceed. Perhaps the best option is to let them settle their own differences. Can you imagine if the UN was around and tried to intervene in the US civil war?

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