Syria is Not Iraq - Bosnia and Kosovo Offer the Real LessonsIf there’s just one thing I want to tell those opposing U.S. intervention (or any international intervention) in Syria, it is this: Syria is not Iraq, and all interventions are not equal. Some interventions are needed and right now, and U.S. intervention (even if it is unilateral) could go a long way towards solving Syria's ongoing civil war.
We must remember the following facts:
First, all attempts at dialogue and diplomacy have failed. Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s six-point plan to resolve this stalemate, followed by UN Special Envoy to the Arab League Lakhdar Brahimi’s subsequent efforts, have come to naught. China and Russia continue to back Bashar Al-Assad’s regime, which continues to massacre its own people. Given that diplomacy has not worked so far and is unlikely to work in the near future, what hope do we have? Do we just wait it out until both sides wipe each other out, given that this is turning out to be a war for survival? Do you really doubt that humanitarian military interventions can be successful? Then let me remind you of Bosnia and Kosovo.
Second, the theory that any military intervention in the region will make things worse is based on unfounded fear. I will have to agree with Nicholas Kristof, who wrote in an op-ed on Thursday that “The Syrian government has also lately had the upper hand in fighting, and airstrikes might make it more willing to negotiate toward a peace deal to end the war. I wouldn’t bet on it, but, in Bosnia, airstrikes helped lead to the Dayton peace accord.” We must also be humble enough to admit that in this case, we are all (on both sides) pundits who are pontificating based on limited information. We simply don't know what's going to happen.
Third, the case for humanitarian intervention still exists. As Kofi Annan points out in his autobiography Interventions, which I have reviewed here, there is a clear case for the international community to intervene. Given the structure of the Security Council and recent tensions between Russia and the U.S., things are not moving ahead in the UN structure as they should. Sovereignty is a wonderful concept, but only when the heads of state of each country respect their citizens' right to life. Given what a great threat Syria has become to the region and the rest of the world, it is about time the international community did something about it. As Annan points out, “We needed to convince the broader global community that sovereignty had to be understood as contingent and conditional on states’ taking responsibility for the security of their own people’s human rights.” Given what a huge regional problem Syria has become, with over one million children and about two million refugees in the region, it is clear that there are bigger issues at stake than one’s nation’s sovereignty.
This intervention may be the only option to force all sides to the negotiating table. I foresee a Dayton Accords type outcome — that is my hope and prayer.