Michael Ignatieff and Leon Wieseltier write: Aleppo is an emergency, requiring emergency measures. Are we no longer capable of emergency action? It is also an opportunity, perhaps the last one, to save Syria. Aleppo is the new Sarajevo, the new Srebrenica, and its fate should be to the Syrian conflict what the fate of Sarajevo and Srebrenica were to the Bosnian conflict: the occasion for the United States to bestir itself, and for the West to say with one voice, “Enough.” It was after Srebrenica and Sarajevo — and after the air campaign with which the West finally responded to the atrocities — that the United States undertook the statecraft that led to the Dayton accords and ended the war in Bosnia.
The conventional wisdom is that nothing can be done in Syria, but the conventional wisdom is wrong. There is a path toward ending the horror in Aleppo — a perfectly realistic path that would honor our highest ideals, a way to recover our moral standing as well as our strategic position. Operating under a NATO umbrella, the United States could use its naval and air assets in the region to establish a no-fly zone from Aleppo to the Turkish border and make clear that it would prevent the continued bombardment of civilians and refugees by any party, including the Russians. [Continue reading…]
Any military strategy that’s designed “to recover our moral standing” is dubious — and not simply because there are those who doubt that the U.S. possessed much the moral standing in the first place.
The effectiveness of a military strategy can’t be assessed on the basis of the worthiness of its non-military goals.
The authors in their sweeping assertion that they are offering “a perfectly realistic path,” dodge the awkward details on how this would work.
Are they assuming that once the boundaries of this no-fly zone had been defined, Russian and Syrian aircraft would then obediently comply?
Or do they assume that as soon as a few jets had been shot down the intended lesson would have swiftly been learned?
Turkey already shot down a Russian jet on the edge of this arena. What lessons, if any, have been drawn from that incident and are they now being applied to this future scenario?
“If the Russians and Syrians sought to prevent humanitarian protection and resupply of the city, they would face the military consequences,” we are told by the armchair generals.
“Military consequences” is a phrase of political bluster — especially when coming from two writers who profess no military expertise. If pressed to spell out what these military consequences might be, I expect Ignatieff and Wieseltier would defer to the actual generals.
My point here is not to dismiss the idea that at this late hour there might be a constructive military intervention in Syria, but simply to say that such an argument needs more detail and substance and fewer passionate declarations. It needs to credibly show how this would work rather than simply why it should be undertaken.
Currently, Obama administration officials are cynically curtailing all discussion about their military options by claiming that they only have two choices: start World War III or do essentially nothing (beyond repeating their mantra that their is no military solution in Syria).
“What do you want me to do, go to war with Russia?” John Kerry is reported to have asked a Syrian NGO representative in London last week.
The choice is false but it is gladly being picked up by ideological anti-interventionists who are attracted by the rhetorical utility of this device when offered to those who have little interest in questioning its validity.
To those who insist on framing this crisis in terms of World War III, I would ask two questions: What makes you think it hasn’t already begun? And why do you think its defining attribute necessarily involves a clash between the U.S. and Russia?
A world war involves global instability and a contagion of violent conflict. There are active conflicts in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Egypt, and Libya. There is unrest in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Palestine, Israel, and elsewhere.
As the EU struggles to handle the refugee crisis, European unity is being fractured, placing its future in jeopardy.
If through the power of inattention, Americans could indeed successfully insulate themselves from the effects of global strife, then perhaps this could endure as a land of blissful ignorance.
Instead, what is more predictable is that the more disengaged the U.S. becomes, the less influence it will have and the fewer options it can consider.
No one will benefit from America’s self-imposed paralysis.