Syria isn't Libya: Obama must consider bolder intervention
Before the calls come to commit US forces to an intervention in Syria, the Obama administration must take a hard look at what happened in Libya. The politically safe, low-risk, low-reward intervention in Libya shouldn’t be repeated in Syria.
The Arab League’s recent actions, first to revoke Syria’s membership, then to impose strong economic sanctions, indicate just how passionate the organization is about ending the violence in Syria. These actions also telegraph the league’s next move: asking for military intervention in Syria.Skip to next paragraph
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Before the calls to commit US forces to an intervention in Syria come, now is the time for the Obama administration to take a hard look at what happened in Libya and ask if the outcome was what it truly desired. The laissez-faire but safe intervention in Libya was a classic example of low risk and low reward. It should not be repeated in Syria.
Although the administration’s rhetoric, for domestic political consumption, proclaims victory in Libya (and officials breathlessly add, “without a single American death”), reality is much more complicated. Time will tell if the Obama gamble in Libya will pay off, but the stakes in Syria are infinitely higher.
The instability and lawlessness in Libya over the past several months are cause for concern, and the future of a Libya post-Qaddafi is uncertain at best and at worst a threat to the region’s stability. European Union diplomats are taking a lead role in assisting the new regime as the United States continues to “lead from behind.”
No matter what the uncertainties of the future, the current reality is that loose weapons from Libya have already bolstered the substantial black market in the region, a market that Al Qaeda affiliates trade in with regularity.
Luckily, Libya had mostly dismantled its weapons-of-mass-destruction program, and in August of this year State department spokesman Victoria Nuland expressed confidence that the few remaining stockpiles of chemical weapons were secured prior to the regime’s collapse (based on communication with the Transitional National Council and US intelligence sources.)
Syria is a different story. It is one of six nations that has refused to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention that bans the development and stockpiling of such weapons. And US intelligence agencies believe that it has a significant stockpile of chemical weapons and the means to deliver them, according to a Wall Street Journal report in August of this year.