Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Syria....What Realistic Options Are Available?

South Dakota's delegation in Washington are supposedly going over the evidence and talking to their party leaders to find out what to do about Syria.  This is a task I do not envy them.  I have said before that I believe that the US needs to respond with some show of force in attempts to convince the Assad regime to not use those kinds of weapons again.  I would love for some other option to be present, but as of yet, no one has made a compelling case that I have seen.

Fox News has an opinion piece from K.T. McFarland that the President has "only" five choices.  The include regime change, limited attack, arm the rebels, destroy the chemical weapons (with magic bombs of our own the neutralize the chemical agents or send in special ops to take them out), and delay and do something symbolic like allow Keystone pipeline to be built (I am not joking on this.  She seriously is trying to use the crisis in Syria to justify the Keystone pipeline.)

I don't think that those are the only options.  David Newquist suggests that the US should shame Assad and make sure he is called a war criminal and brought up before the ICC.  The problem is I don't think that this would work on any level.  The ICC point is also moot since it would require going through China and Russia in the United Nations.
As Syria is not a party to the Statute of the International Criminal Court, the ICC will only have jurisdiction over events in Syria if there is a Security Council referral (Arts 12 & 13, ICC Statute). If the Council were to refer the situation in Syria, it is possible that attacks involving the use of chemical weapons may be prosecuted as part of a charge of crimes against humanity or as part of the war crime of intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population. In such a case, the use of chemical weapons would not form part of the core of the charge but would simply be the means by which the attack has taken place.
Russia seems to be the sticking point for a lot of the problems in trying to find an alternative method of dealing with Syria.  This quote best sums up the whole Russia problem
Russia, it is regularly argued, remains stubbornly supportive of the Assad regime. Russia has supplied Syria with “advanced missiles” and has consistently protected Assad from assertive action by the Security Council. In July, the Russian government suggested that it was the rebels who had used chemical weapons in their fight against the regime. In emergency meetings where the Council discussed how to respond to the alleged chemical weapons attack, Russia maintained that videos showing civilians suffering from the effects of chemical agents was a “premeditated provocation” and was likely fabricated by Syria’s rebel forces. This was in line with the response of the Syrian regime. 
However, as the article from above points out, this is not just a Russia problem.  A whole lot of people are weary after the Iraq conflict to take any potentially significant, hostile action.  I believe basing our hopes on shaming a person that has already demonstrated that he is willing to use chemical weapons on his own people while biting his thumb at the rest of the world is not a person that can be shamed.

I think Obama and the rest of the world/United States has ruled out regime change.  If that was a viable choice, it would have happened about one year ago.  That would be to much of an Iraq scenario all over again.  I think we can also rule out magical anti-chemical bombs and building a pipeline to deal with the Syrian problem.  (I still can't believe that was offered as a suggestion.)

There was one other option that was not directly brought up: Do Nothing.  This is becoming more and more the voice of those opposed to action in Syria:  "Do nothing."  This is a failed approach because do nothing communicates acceptance.  If I witness a mother beating on her children I should not turn away from such action, but instead I am obliged to act.  In the end, it may not stop future action by the parent, but to say that this is not my problem or my family, condones the action.

I think that a Washington Post editorial sums up the crux of the problem:

Some ask why the United States should care about 1,400 deaths from gassing when more than 100,000 have died in Syria’s war. We’re among those who believe the administration should have done more, short of boots on the ground, to forestall those deaths, and we believe that any military action should be part of a strategy to influence the war’s outcome. 
But these deaths are different. A line has been crossed; if there are no consequences, it will be crossed again. Someday U.S. soldiers on a battlefield could be the victim of the resulting impunity. If the United States does not ensure that Syria faces consequences for crossing the line, no one will, and the U.S. response should be strong enough to prevent Mr. Assad from committing further atrocities....
I would love for everyone that claims that military action should not be used to present a viable option (please no Keystone pipelines suggestions) that will have the possibility of communicating to Assad and others that the use of chemical weapons are not acceptable behavior in this world.


  1. It's a war of religion between the Sunnis and Shias. Assad's regime is Shia, the rebels are Sunnis backed by Saudi money and certainly aren't innocent angels in this war.

    It isn't worth American treasure, let the Muslims kill each other.

  2. Not that simple at all Thad. You need to do a little more research.

    It's very complicated Michael. I agree something needs to be done. I'm just not convinced violence is the answer. I think dialogue, pressure and I don't know, more of something or less of something. Syrians need our help though, especially the millions of refugees now homeless and desperate. UNHCR desperately needs money. That's one place to start I guess. Heavy sigh. There's no good solution. Thanks for your post.

  3. Thanks Kim...I agree that it is not simple. I think that maybe the US should give a large chunk to UNHCR, but that doesn't really address the chemical weapons issue. I wish dialogue would work, but that seems impossible without Russia. I don't know how much more pressure we can put on Assad without Russia and China backing us. I really want some viable alternative, but I still haven't heard it from anyone.

    Thad...I think that it is way to simplistic and ill informed. The question is how you would feel when a country will be willing to use chemical weapons on Israel or Kuwait or South Korea because Syria got away with it. I think a fear of Mid East destabilizing with international involvement is a legit fear, but let them all die because they are not like me is not only immoral but shows a bigoted mindset that damages all credibility.