The Time is Now – Why the US should consider a swift humanitarian intervention in Syria with limited use of force and no “boots on the ground”
Image Source: The Malta Independent
As an American law student the crisis in Syria presents itself as a familiar hypothetical posed by your beloved international law professor: the Syrian government is killing its own citizens – is this a violation of international law? Millions of refugees flee their homes as Assad’s regime bombards cities and towns – is this enough to warrant humanitarian intervention? Saying yes or no to these questions and providing an explanation citing the UN Charter will earn you a check in class participation or a symbolic gold star for the day. Unfortunately, the crisis in Syria cannot be so easily shelved away once class is over. Nearly 3 years have passed as millions are forced from their native country and a civil war destabilizes an already volatile region. So what do we do? As the UN and its Member States use international law and diplomacy to achieve peace, there are others simultaneously undermining their efforts.
The United States faces several issues in dealing with Syria. Force will result in fraying (if not severing) the fragile ties between Russia and Iran, while continued inaction effectively condones Assad’s aggression towards the people of Syria.
Inaction simply cannot be the course taken by President Obama for the United States to uphold its position and reputation as the world’s police power. It may very well be possible that the United States does not wish to continue, or even acknowledge, this role that it plays. But, the fact remains that the world’s strongest nation has traditionally intervened in foreign conflicts and more or less brought them to an end, albeit whatever end is politically expedient FOR the United States. There is no sensible end in sight for Syria. No game plan or long-term rehabilitation as there might have been for Iraq and Afghanistan. Nevertheless, any end is better than the continued destruction of Syria and its people.
Diplomacy has failed and America cannot continue to lean on this crutch to bide time. The United States needs to intervene militarily in Syria to bring stability. Critics of using force in Syria point to diplomatic issues arising between those who support Assad’s regime and the United States. Would it be so awful to strain ties with Russia and Syria in the name of humanitarian intervention? Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine is further testament to its own disregard of international law. The Security Council remains flawed in its framework, especially as a Permanent Member refuses to abide by the international law and the UN Charter (i.e. Russia). As for Iran, its nuclear programs will continue with or without Assad in power.
Image Source: Al Jazeera
For those who fear a more widespread destabilization of an already unstable Middle East, the force used must be limited and concise. We can all agree that another ground war is not something that is preferable or practical for the United States. Iraq and Afghanistan have left their mark and Syria would be the next long and costly war if ground forces were deployed. Calculated attacks to depose Assad and his regime would be the most effective means of ending the situation. Without aiding the, also dangerous, rebels and without sacrificing troops, drones could effectively cease the widespread and systemic destruction brought by the Syrian government. Now, could this destabilize the region? Sure. Could tensions rise? Yes, but with Assad gone, the majority of the fighting would stop there.
The aftermath would leave Syria with rebels that want to preserve their country and the same people that lived their prior to the intervention. A swift operation during a limited timeframe would be the sort of action that can be applauded, and if unsuccessful, will not be a critical blow to the country. America doesn’t have a duty to rebuild Syria, but it does have a duty to protect human life in situations such as this.
For better or worse, America has lived up to its prophecy as a “city upon a hill.” The nation should own this role and do what is good for the betterment of the world.
Rafiq Gharbi is a second year law student (’15) at the University of Baltimore School of Law and a CICL Fellow. He graduated from Salisbury University in May 2012. While at Salisbury, he majored in Political Science with a minor in Philosophy and was active in the Muslim Student Association. Rafiq is also an avid soccer player and hopes to play for the Tunisian national team in the future.