Saturday, January 14, 2012

Syria / United States / Responsibility to Protect

"Demonstrators protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Homs." (Reuters)
"Edging Toward Intervention in Syria"
By Paul Mutter, January 13, 2012
"On Monday, a unity agreement between Syria's two main anti-regime groups collapsed over the issue of foreign military intervention in the country's 11-month-old internal conflict. As anti-government demonstrations and police violence continue, there is still no immediate prospect of a NATO or international military intervention like that undertaken in Libya.  But that doesn't mean it won't happen. Syria is a unique case. Unlike Libya it doesn't have a lot of oil. Unlike Egypt, it is not controlled by a U.S.-funded ally. What it does have is an increasingly violent dictatorship and a growing but divided opposition. The government of Bashar al-Assad shows no signs of weakening resolve, and Arab League monitors in the country have drawn criticism (and live fire) for their work. The Syrian National Council, which is dominated by Syrian émigrés in Turkey and Europe, has reiterated its calls for foreign military intervention despite contradictory remarks from some of its members. The SNC wants to establish a no-fly zone over northern Syria to provide a safe haven for refugees and the loosely organized 'Syria Free Army' in preparation for NATO and Arab League-backed operations against Assad's loyalist forces. The National Coordination Body, composed of left-wing Syrian Arabs and Kurds operating inside Syria, continues to warn against foreign intervention and expansion of armed resistance to Assad. The unity agreement's collapse -- and reports suggesting that a majority of the Syrian opposition and demonstrators now favor foreign military intervention -- may help strengthen the hands of those in the West who have argued for such action from the beginning.  In Washington a 'time-limited, scope-limited military action' as implemented in Libya this past year appeals to both Obama administration policymakers who say they are guided by a 'responsibility to protect' and to neoconservatives who favor 'regime change' in Damascus to isolate Iran and Islamist groups. ... For outside interlocutors assisting the SNC, there is the London-based Henry Jackson Society, which is described by the Guardian as a British group with close ties to American neoconservatives. ... Other prominent voices in the insular but influential world of neoconservative thought include a team of defense specialists at the hawkish Washington Institute for Near East Policy who recently issued a report concluding, 'Intervention in Syria would be a demanding mission carrying significant risks,' while also asserting that 'intervention also presents policy opportunities.'
Marwa Daoudy, a former UN official and critic of intervention, has noted that idea is supported by a who's who of Iraq War boosters. One of them is Fouad Ajami, a professor at Stanford, who endorsed NATO airstrikes against Moammar Gadhafi's forces this past year. Last March, Ajami wrote that 'Benghazi would have been Barack Obama's Srebrenica' if he had not intervened militarily in Libya. 'The right thing, at last,' Ajami wrote of NATO's intervention. 'The cavalry arrived in the nick of time.' Ajami is critical of Obama and Hillary Clinton's allegedly 'paralyzing caution' toward Syria. As Ajami's comments show, the tragedy of Srebrenica in 1995 -- a horrific eruption of ethnic cleansing that killed 8,000 people within sight of a UN 'safe zone' -- animates all sides of the Syria debate. So too has the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Weiss has referenced it in his writings, and at least two prominent Obama officials found President Clinton's refusal to intervene in that conflict appalling and pushed a reportedly hesitant Pentagon to move quickly. One of the most influential advocates for intervention in Libya was Samantha Power of the National Security Council, who is only half-jokingly described as Obama's Paul Wolfowitz by reporter David Rieff. Power is the administration's most outspoken advocate of 'the responsibility to protect' concept, which in its broadest interpretation 'holds that when a sovereign state fails to prevent atrocities, foreign governments may intervene to stop them.' United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, an NSC staffer during the Clinton administration, was in the interventionist camp in Libya that drew lessons from Rwanda. Time reported that it was Rice who, by virtue of her forceful maneuvering at the UN, got Secretary of Defense Robert Gates off the fence about committing US air assets over Libya. The National Review suggested that the Pentagon was 'outmaneuvered by three women: Clinton, Power, and ... Rice.' [...]"

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