According to Josh Rogin, a veritable Who’s Who of warmongers has sent a letter to Obama calling for intervention in Syria, and their main demand demonstrates how little they have thought through how any of this would work:
Immediately establish safe zones within Syrian territory, as well as no-go zones for the Assad regime’s military and security forces, around Homs, Idlib, and other threatened areas, in order to protect Syrian civilians. To the extent possible, the United States should work with like-minded countries like Turkey and members of the Arab League in these efforts.
How would Obama do this? Presumably he would have to order attacks on Syrian military targets to establish these safe zones and “no-go zones.” Taylor Marvin recently observed, “At its very best a NATO or Arab League mission to establish and protect safe zones on the Syrian border would be an indefinite combat commitment,” so what is often presented as a more “limited” engagement would turn into an open-ended campaign that might not even succeed on its own terms. As Daniel Trombly has been reminding everyone lately, the protection provided to Iraqi Kurds from 1991 on was only possible after the destruction of Iraq’s armed forces in Desert Storm:
Despite the frequent invocations of Operation Provide Comfort as a model for intervention, very few of the plans for intervention in Syria actually describe the most essential prerequisite to Provide Comfort: the defeat and destruction of huge amounts of Iraqi military capability in the first Persian Gulf War.
The letter’s second demand reminds us that the goal of “hastening the end of the Assad regime” is not compatible with reducing or ending the civilian population’s suffering:
Establish contacts with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and, in conjunction with allies in the Middle East and Europe, provide a full range of direct assistance, including self-defense aid to the FSA.
Sending the opposition arms probably isn’t going to hasten the end of Assad’s regime. Either way, it will lead to an increase in violence and fatalities. Going this route will ensure the loss of many more Syrian lives. Let’s hope that Obama ignores these demands.