Syria continues to be a hot topic for debate today, with more and more signs indicating a possible military strike against Syrian forces. Debate has begun over the legality of a non-UN sanctioned strike as it becomes apparent that Security Council agreement on intervention is not forthcoming.
For my part, it seems that the strikes are inevitable. The nature, extent, and duration of military action is an entirely different matter. One can hope, however, that any military intervention will be directed towards some achievable goal. Strikes for the sake of strikes, or strikes for the sake of “doing something” seems unwise. This is all the more true given the volatile nature of the region, the lengthiness of the Syrian conflict, and the possibility that the conflict could spillover into other areas of the Middle East.
So what are the goals for a military strike in Syria? It seems unlikely that the US and her allies are willing to commit to the outright elimination of Al-Assad’s forces. It seems equally unlikely that limited missile strikes will do much to shift the momentum of the conflict in favor of a swift victory for Syrian rebels. And yet the ultimate purpose of the strikes, in order to be justified in the eyes of both the international community and the domestic public, must be related to the cessation of violence (or at least related to the cessation of violence against civilians).
Foreign Affairs suggests that strikes could provide diplomatic benefits. First, it may encourage Russia to pressure Al-Assad to go to the bargaining table. Fearing the power vacuum that might develop after Al-Assad’s defeat, Russia would be more likely to encourage Al-Assad to accept a negotiated peace. On the part of the rebels, US strikes could encourage their fractured leadership to finally band together to meet Al-Assad at the bargaining table.
Will this actually occur? I have my doubts. Al-Assad doesn’t seem interested in a stalemate – and neither do the rebels. Is a peaceful resolution in which both parties survive the conflict actually plausible? Will US strikes really do much to encourage this outcome?
For my part, I would hate to see a half-way solution proposed. If military action is undertaken, it must be undertaken with an eye for decisive and clear victory. Prolonging any involvement this already lengthy civil war would be unwise.