Ed Morrissey at HotAir flags an interesting Washington Post/ABC poll finds that Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to a U.S. intervention in Syria–unless Syria loses control of its chemical weapons. Or attacks neighboring U.S. allies. Or Bashar al-Assad uses chemical weapons against his people. Or if the intervention is a no-fly zone that doesn’t involve ground troops. In those cases, the vast majority of the public supports it:
In general, 73 percent say the U.S. military should not get involved in the conflict. But almost exactly as many say they’d support U.S. military involvement if Syria were to lose control of its chemical weapons, as do 63 percent if the Assad regime used these banned weapons against its own people – an action that Barack Obama has warned would “cross a red line.”
Similarly, if Syrian forces were to attack nearby U.S. allies, 69 percent say they’d support U.S. military involvement. And regardless of any such specific provocation, 62 percent say they’d favor creation of a no-fly zone, provided no ground troops were used. (That may reflect the success of the no-fly zone over Libya, general preference for air vs. ground combat, or some combination of both.)
Even among those who initially oppose U.S. military intervention, more than half change their position given the specific circumstances proposed, including 69 percent who, despite initial hesitancy, support U.S. involvement if Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile became insecure.
Last week, Michael Doran of the Brookings Institution and I had an op-ed in the New York Times arguing for a greater level of American involvement in Syria. Among the steps we advocated was putting an initial focus on helping the rebels to take Aleppo, the country’s second-largest city and commercial hub.
Today you can read in the Weekly Standard a first-hand report on how the battle of Aleppo is progressing by Jonathan Spyer, a Jerusalem Post columnist. Spyer, who recently visited the area, confirms the extent to which Assad has lost control of the land between Aleppo and the Turkish border:
I entered Aleppo governorate in broad daylight, crossing through an olive grove on the Turkish border. Once over, I was picked up by a driver affiliated with the Free Syrian Army, and we continued on our peaceful way, taking the highway to the warzone of Aleppo city. The Assad regime no longer exists as a functioning presence in the surrounding countryside. The FSA, in its various local manifestations and with its various political allies, has the final word.
“ ‘Never again’ is a challenge to nations. It’s a bitter truth — too often, the world has failed to prevent the killing of innocents on a massive scale. And we are haunted by the atrocities that we did not stop and the lives we did not save.” So said President Obama earlier this year at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. One wonders, in light of what is happening in Syria, how he can fail to be haunted by his administration’s unwillingness to do more to end the bloodshed there.
Especially as one reads news items such as this one: “At least 30 people, and possibly more than 100, were killed in Syria on Thursday in the northern Raqqa Province, when government warplanes bombed a gas station crowded with people, according to activist groups.”
The situation in Syria seems to get worse by the day. Now the Assad regime is threatening to use chemical weapons against any foreign force intervening in Syria and is actually using fighter aircraft and helicopter gunships to bomb Syria’s second-largest city Aleppo. Bashar al-Assad is clearly growing desperate–his ground forces are not enough to suppress the uprising which has now spread to Damascus and Aleppo, and so he is having to resort to his air force to help.
This creates a fresh vulnerability. Early on in the conflict calls for a no-fly zone were rejected because this would have done little to impair Assad’s operations. Now, with the regime increasingly calling out the air force, a no-fly zone could make a difference tactically. It would also make a huge difference symbolically by showing that the world will not put up with the regime’s murderous misconduct and is prepared to act to stop it. That might well encourage more defections from the ranks of the Syrian armed forces.