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The Looming War in Syria: An Analysis of Policy Prescriptions The recent chemical weapon strike in the suburbs of Damascus

has led the international community to discuss intervention in the increasingly complicated Syrian civil war. The French made a strong commitment to respond to those responsible, and the US is still weighing their options. The only people who are wrong in this debate over policy prescription are those who think that there is a correct answer. Nonetheless, I will break down some of the issues complicating the looming war in Syria, and prescribe a policy response that mitigates these problems while helping the Syrian people. The Red Line The Obama Administration drew a red line on the Assad regime using chemical weapons against its own people. What is a red line, and why does it matter? Governments use red lines as a form of deterrence against unacceptable international behavior. Deterrence only follows if the threat behind the red line is credible; as a form of mutually assured destruction, it works because it says if you do this, we have no other option but then to use military response. Assads use of chemical weapons, therefore, would be self-destructive because the red line would require US intervention. This red line reinforces a global norm against using chemical weapons; because Assad violated this norm, its incumbent on the international community to punish him for it. If we dont respond, then we lose credibility in our threats. This means that the use of a threat (which is peaceful, requires no money, and no lost lives) in foreign policy becomes null; therefore, we would only be able to use military intervention as a form of deterrence. The red line is important because maintaining its credibility means maintaining the ability to use words rather than weapons to mitigate conflict. Iran and Russia One argument is that we should use limited strikes akin to the Kosovo air campaign to take out strategic compounds for Assads army. The problem with this? Iran and Russia. The US would need to worry about accidentally attacking Russian troops or advisers, as well as Iranian ones. Iranian troops are guarding at least some of Assads chemical stockpiles; striking at these stockpiles would risk killing Iranian troops, which would then dramatically increase the chances of an accidental war with Iran. Would it really help Syrian civilians use their land as a satellite war against Iran and Russia? Furthermore, Iran has promised to retaliate on Israel if US intervention in Syria occurs. Considering Israels priceless role in our intelligence gathering of the Middle East, this is another repercussion to be considered at length. The Problem of the Rebels The fighting amongst the rebel armies need to be taken under serious consideration when discussion intervention strategies. Lets say we strike the Assad regime and eventually succeed in ousting the government. The growing fracture of both pro and anti regime militias, which have promised bloodshed no matter what regime is leftover, leaves even more doubts. The next regime to take over will not magically fix Syrias problems; rather, wed have conflict for the foreseeable future as the strongest rebel party is the jihadists that we find to be enemies. Cynics would argue, Well, weve got our enemies

fighting our enemies remind me again why we would want to get involved? Would intervention mean simply giving our future enemies the tools to recreate an Assad-like regime? Furthermore, are we even sure Assad is responsible for the attacks? He has very little to gain, and a whole lot to lose from using WMD on his own people and asking for Western intervention. Could the chemical weapon strike have been used by a rebel party to lure Western intervention into defeating Assads regime for them? This has yet to be answered, but before we go to war with Syria (and possibly Iran and Russia), we need to get to the bottom of this. Syrias Air Defense System Although waning in power, Syria still has a formidable air defense system, all of it arrayed at the coast from where US Navy ships would be launching cruise missiles. To defeat that system would require a massive shock-and-awe campaign, which might not even get all of the necessary facilities on the first wave, and would increase the chances of still more chemical weapon use by a regime desperate to hold onto power. The Root of the Issue None of the discussed solutions conclusively address the complex problem that is Syria: a collapsing regime holding onto power with increasing brutality facing an opposition movement increasingly controlled by the very jihadists we went to war with once already. The purpose of our involvement in Syria would be to help the plight of the innocent Syrian civilians that have faced brutal humanitarian situations within the last few years. I understand that many of you may argue from the ghost of Afghanistan and Iraq, but dont the ghosts of Kosovo and Rwanda also deserve a voice? Policy Prescription I argue that the best option that we have to minimize the complex challenges of Syria will maximizing our ability to help the Syrian people is through NATO. France has already made a statement that they are ready to hold Assads regime accountable for the horrific human rights violations, and the international community appears to be gearing up towards a similar response. Furthermore, a NATO or UN response would minimize the possible threat of Russia and Iran responding with war on the United States. The UN or NATO should set up a protective zone for Syrian civilians where they can be safe and taken care of. While this may appear expensive to be giving these civilians food, clothes, and shelter, it would be much more costly to drop bombs on them. The UN/NATO military would not be aggressors against the rebels or Assads regime, but would rather ensure the safety of the civilians within the protective zone. The rebels and Assad can self determine the future of their state at their own free will, but the international community will protect those who want no part in their games.