Yes, the United States should intervene in Syria. With so much at stake, in both humanitarian and political terms, the U.S.simply does not have the luxury of inaction. If we allow the war to spiral out of control, the consequences will haunt us for decades to come.
The fighting in Syria will decide the fate not only of one country, but an entire region. In Lebanon, militiamen who support Bashar Assad‘s dictatorship show little respect for international borders as they pursue rebels, and their attacks have polarized the country, leading to clashes in Beirut and Tripoli.
After 15 months, we can safely say that the time for consideration is over, and the time for action has come.
Despite the presence of U.N. monitors on the ground, violence has not come to an end. Assad’s troops continue to attack towns and cities where people have called for his ouster, executing entire families. And in what reporters rightly describe as the Houla massacre, Assad’s henchmen slaughtered more than 100 people in cold blood, including 49 children.
What needs to be done is quite straightforward: Under the auspices either of NATO or a coalition of the willing, Washington should pursue air strikes against select targets, especially the columns of tanks and heavy artillery that are bombing restive towns indiscriminately.
The U.S. and its allies should provide arms to local resistance fighters, enabling them to secure their communities. They should create safe havens across the Turkish and Jordanian borders. And they should encourage high-level defections by offering amnesty to Assad’s key military, security and political figures.
Washington should build a coalition of peacekeepers who can maintain order in the country, and work with opposition groups to piece together an interim governing body that can take over once Assad’s regime has fallen.
It won’t be easy, and it won’t be cheap, but the cost of non-intervention will be much higher.
Exiled Syrian dissident Ammar Abdulhamid is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.