Why there will be no foreign military intervention in Syria
Despite the apparent failure of the meeting in Geneva over the weekend and a new Human Rights Watch report of widespread torture by the regime of Bashar al-Assad, a foreign military intervention in Syria is unlikely. In fact, there is reason to doubt that Washington really wants Assad to fall.
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The would-be interveners would be left with only a “Kosovo” option: NATO actions, independent of the UN. Yet even in the Kosovo crisis, the Serbian defeat depended on Russia’s eventual withdrawal of support for Milosevic as much as it did NATO’s bombing.Skip to next paragraph
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The Genocide Convention of 1948, signed by almost all countries, has not prevented any genocide from running its course, whether in Cambodia, Guatemala, Rwanda, or Sudan. In any case, policy advisers would probably say that this convention does not apply to Syria because the targets of the regime do not fit the convention’s criteria: They are not a “national, ethnical, racial, or religious group;” they are “merely” political opponents, a category not included in the convention.
More relevant is the “Responsibility to Protect” resolution passed unanimously by the UN in 2005 accepting the responsibility of all governments to protect citizens of any other country being attacked by their own governments. The Responsibility to Protect resolution, however, leaves many avenues for states to escape having to intervene effectively, an escape that has proven to be the preferred option in cases like Sudan.
Mr. Assad has successfully kept out the international press and has prompted the failure of the UN monitor mission by restrictions and deliberately inadequate protection. The operators of amateur social media have not been able to compensate effectively for such blockage. World leaders could be hesitant to create an intervention policy based on the killing of children, for example, when it is not fully clear who did the killing.
They have perhaps learned a lesson from the babies allegedly killed in Kuwait in 1990 by Saddam Hussein’s soldiers according to the congressional testimony of Kuwaiti diplomats. When investigators attempted to confirm these stories after Iraq was expelled from Kuwait in 1991, they turned out to be fabrications.
Despite its rhetoric condemning the Syrian regime, there is also reason to doubt that Washington really wants Assad to fall. Assad’s regime is “the devil we know,” and one with demonstrated weaknesses: Witness its expulsion from Lebanon and its defeats by Israel. At the same time, it has a professional and mostly loyal army and an identifiable and mostly loyal power base in one-fifth of the population: the Alawite and Christian minorities.