Why military intervention in Syria now is not a good idea
Possible results of support include risk of war
Published: Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 20, 2012 16:09
Now, nearly a year and a half after the Syrian internal crisis and civil unrest broke out, the international community remains unable to de-escalate conflict. With the death toll ranging from estimates of 20,000 to 30,000 and various diplomatic means to solving the conflict at a standstill, calls to provide armament and air support to the Syrian rebel forces are increasing. However, upon close examination, supporting the rebel forces militarily is not the best way to bring about the humanitarian goal of erradicating the brutal Assad regime.
The first question to ask is whether military support, once provided to the rebel forces, will shorten the war and decrease the death toll. The apparent answer seems to be yes, as increasing the strength of the rebels will also increase their efficiency in battling government forces. However, the rebels’ increasing prowess against government power will not end the conflict for good, because the Syrian civil war stretches beyond socioeconomic problems like unemployment or income gaps. This civil war has its roots in deep-seated and historical sectarian divides. It is doubtful that foreign military support for the rebels could effectively annihilate sectarian divides, since the political and religious discord between different factions will continue to exist even after President Assad falls. A military victory that ends the bloody conflict for good is difficult to achieve, even with U.S. intervention.
In all likelihood, if the United States or any other Western power did intervene militarily, Russia and Iran would strengthen their support for the Assad regime—or whatever is left of it after Assad falls. For Russia and Iran, the Assad regime is a valuable regional ally, especially considering the sheer number of U.S. allies in the Middle East. To counter the further spread of U.S. regional influence, it is reasonable that Russia and Iran would seek to step up their support for Assad.
The next question, then, is whether the United States will truly gain any real, long-standing political influence by supporting the rebels militarily now. Many interventionist advocates fear that, if the United States does not intervene now, the opposition might fall under the influence of Islamic extremism and end up resisting or resenting the United States. Considering Russia and Iran’s abiding support for the Assad regime, the United States is the best option for a new Syrian government to turn to when looking for aid. In other words, when selecting a strong ally, choices for the new government are limited and relying on the United States might be their best and only option.
On the contrary, if the United States did gain a military role in the conflict, extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda would be able to rally more popular support rooted in anti-American sentiment. Once the more liberal fractions of the opposition force have been tainted with U.S. influence, their influence on the Syrian masses might be eroded severely. The Syrian public would be more likely to succumb to the sway of Al-Qaeda extremists, and sectarian violence would be more likely to prevail.
In terms of U.S. presence in the rebel movement, it is important to underscore the risk that U.S. weapons provided find their way into the hands of extremists among the rebel groups. The possibility of extremist terrorists in the rebel forces cannot be eliminated.
The key point, then, is that while one should not rule out the possibility of military support in situations of humanitarian concern, if the conditions in Syria worsen drastically, military intervention now induces high risks with insufficient expectation of effectiveness. Quite contrary to Senator John McCain’s claims that the incumbent government has been standing idly by as the conflict unfolds, the Obama administration has been leading efforts towards sanctioning the Assad regime and using diplomacy to bring Russia and China into an agreement with the West. These diplomatic and economic measures would bring about far more secure results in the current situation than would military intervention.