Anne-Marie Slaughter recycles her argument for Syrian intervention:
Three months ago, I proposed in the New York Times that the Arab League and Turkey, backed by NATO members, should provide a limited number of specialized anti-tank and anti-mortar weapons to Syrian towns willing to declare “no kill zones” — call them NKZs — in their towns, meaning no attacks by the Syrian army, sectarian shabbiha militias, the FSA, or anyone else. Public safety, including for peaceful protesters, would be paramount. I suggested the United States provide communications and intelligence to enable the town authorities and any members of any military willing to enforce the NKZ to allow them to track the movements of Syrian government troops. And I suggested that drones from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United States could fire on Syrian government tanks approaching NKZs.
This proposal was widely met with derision, particularly in the security community. But three months later, the United States has announced that it is providing intelligence and communication support to the FSA and openly countenancing the provision of arms by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Near the Jordan-Syria border, the U.S. military has just finished a massive military exercise with Jordan and 18 other countries.
Slaughter seems to think that recent events provide some vindication for her earlier argument, but she neglects to mention that it was the main idea in her proposal, the so-called “no kill zone,” that was most thoroughly criticized and rejected. People weren’t attacking her proposal because she suggested sending non-lethal communication assistance to the opposition. Arming the opposition is still a bad idea, but even that wasn’t the most important objection to what she was saying. Slaughter’s imagined “no kill zones” would be indefensible. They would fail, and even if they somehow succeeded they would lead to the escalation of the conflict.
Daniel Trombly’s response is representative of the critics of Slaughter’s original proposal:
Syrian safe zones are useless unless there are forces capable of defending them from massed armored and artillery formations. So long as even a fraction of the Alawite career military forces remain loyal to Assad, he will have access to heavy weapons and be able to reduce population centers and encampments with relative ease. Anti-tank weapons and anti-air weapons will only blunt these attacks, they will not be repulsed without the ability to direct counter-fires en mass. Furthermore, the attacks and sieges will not be successfully broken without a ground force capable of defeating Syrian forces in a stand-up fight.
Anne-Marie Slaughter and other advocates of a safe zone have argued that a guerrilla and paramilitary force armed with small arms, crew served weapons, and anti-tank rockets and missiles could defend against massed formations without devolution into siege warfare by cutting off communications using intelligence, communications, and support from special forces advisers. Particularly against a lightly-armed foe Syrian heavy forces could easily make a mockery of no-kill zones by simply pressing ahead with attacks on cities and any FSA forces foolish enough to concentrate themselves in their defense.
Slaughter doesn’t address any of these objections in the new article, and instead redoubles her commitment to the untenable position of a “neutral” intervention that invited so much legitimate criticism last time:
It is time to stand neither for the Syrian opposition nor against the Syrian government but against killing by either side.
That sounds nice, but it makes no sense at all when she is arguing at the same time that the U.S. should take sides in the conflict. Once Western and Gulf states intervene to create the so-called “no kill zones,” they have chosen to back one side in the conflict at the expense of the other, and they would be doing this in order to support the opposition in achieving its goal of regime change. “No kill zones” wouldn’t be successful as Slaughter describes them, but it isn’t possible to maintain the fiction that establishing such zones is anything other than an act of war against the Syrian government that aligns the intervening governments with anti-regime forces. Slaughter wants the U.S. to intervene to halt violence in Syria, but what she proposes will set up the opposition for a fall and lead to an increase in violence overall. The incoherence of the proposal stems from the same incompatible goals that interventionists have had all along: they want to support the opposition, but they also want to end the conflict. Providing arms to the opposition guarantees that the conflict continues and becomes more destructive.