The news from Syria is unrelievedly grim. The Assad forces are continuing their murderous assault on Homs but the opposition continues to strike back–now, apparently, with two car bombs in Aleppo, a major city that until now had been largely free of violence. President Obama has gone to the UN Security Council and failed to get a resolution. Is this to be an excuse for continued inaction or will Obama summon as much courage as Bill Clinton did in 1999 when he authorized action in combination with NATO in Kosovo despite the lack of a UN mandate? A growing number of voices are suggesting it is time to act.
No one, to be sure, suggests the use of U.S. ground troops but there is much that can be done short of that. In a typically cogent Wall Street Journal article the great Arabist Fouad Ajami writes: “We could, with some moral clarity, recognize the Syrian National Council as the country’s legitimate government, impose a no-fly zone in the many besieged areas, help train and equip the Free Syrian Army, prompt Turkey to give greater support to defectors from Syrian units, and rally the wealthy Arab states to finance the effort.”
Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post further develops the case for arming the Free Syrian Army in this article in which he points out why we should not be paralyzed by memories of how some of the mujahideen we had armed in Afghanistan in the 1980s later turned against us: “That’s a misreading of history,” he argues. “In fact, arming the Afghan opposition in the 1980s succeeded in its aim of driving out the Soviet Union. U.S. responsibility for the subsequent chaos lay in its abandonment of the country after 1989, not the arms it gave the mujahadeen.” Michael Weiss of the Henry Jackson Society in London provides additional details of what could be done here.
Let us hope the administration is paying attention because the death toll is growing every day.