Syria

Alternatives to War in Syria: 3 Proposals and an Open Thread

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President Barack Obama has been insistent that his planned military actions in Syria will not result in regime change there, at least in any direct fashion.

Indeed, as an anonymous official told The Los Angeles Times, Obama is seeking a response that is "just muscular enough not to get mocked" while also not drawing Assad allies Russia and Iran into direct action. Even most of the Obama's supporters concede that the strike is really about the president maintaining credibility after issuing an ill-conceived and apparently ad-libbed comment about "red lines."

Unless you are a member of the president's inner circle or a fanatical devotee of Obama, that is a grim and deeply disturbing calculus deserving of all the scorn heaped upon it. "Launching cruise missiles or airstrikes simply to 'show resolve' or 'send a message' cannot be justified," writes R.R. Reno of First Things. "At the end of the day, these rationales authorize symbolic killing, which is fundamentally immoral." Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) says simply, "The U.S. should not fight a war to save face."

These are powerful objections to intervening in Syria and they help to explain why the public is squarely against any U.S. action in what is properly understood as a civil war (as with all such struggles, it is taking place in a larger geo-political context, but it is fundamentally not an international conflict).

But is military intervention the only way that the United States—or the world community—can or should engage with Syria? What are the alternatives to military intervention?

Here are some ideas floated by various people.

1. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.): A war crimes tribunal to investigate crimes committed by the Assad regime and rebel groups.

"I plan on introducing a resolution when Congress reconvenes to authorize the President to establish a specialized Court—the Syrian War Crimes Tribunal—to help hold accountable, all those on either side, including Assad, who had slaughtered and raped in Syria," Smith said. "We have learned lessons from the Special Court in Sierra Leone, we have learned lessons from the Rwandan Court, and certainly learned lessons from the Court in Yugoslavia. Establishment of such a court has to be immediate, and I think it could be a rallying point."

More here.

2. Sarah van Gelder: "Syria: Six Alternatives to Military Strikes."

Writing in Yes! magazine, van Gelder argues that "many of the legal and diplomatic processes that led to peace in other times of conflict haven't even been tried yet in Syria." Her suggestions are heavy on U.N. participation, including calling for international embargos on weapons and "forcing the hand" of Russia and China on the security council, and supporting non-violent movements in Syria.

 More here.

3. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.): Provide humanitarian aid, arm rebels, rather than fixate on "sending a message."

We could do all sorts of things to relieve the humanitarian suffering of the two million refugees in neighboring countries. We could conceivably arm the rebels. In fact, the president said he would arm the rebels three months ago. So far, not a single gun has been delivered. Not a single weapon of any kind has been delivered to the rebels, despite the fact the president said it three months ago. There's all sorts of other alternatives that don't involve sending missiles and bombs on a so-called humanitarian war.

In an interview with PBS, Grayson says that the U.S. should refrain from being the world's policeman with some exceptions such as cases of genocide:

Yes, genocide. And in that case, there would be enormous international reaction and enormous international support.

You notice how, with 196 countries in the world, no one else wants to touch this problem.

More here.

Do any of these strike you as preferable either to the air strikes (and whatever else follows) favored by the Obama administration or a complete turning-away from the Syrian civil war, which has claimed over 100,000 lives? Even assuming the U.S. shouldn't be globo-cop, are there actions we can and should take to reduce misery in war zones and other hell holes around the world?

Discuss below in the comments.

NEXT: Cathy Young on Bayard Rustin, an Unsung Civil Rights Hero

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  1. Manufacture and distribute an antidote to sarin gas, and make those chemical stockpiles essentially useless. Not one shot need be fired.

    1. That ought to be more cost-effective, too.

      1. How is atropine supposed to help get my warboner nice and hard?

      2. Yeah, I’m sure we still have vast quantities of them as surplus too.

        Poison gas is mainly a weapon of terror. Unless you get very lucky (unprepared enemy with the the wind blowing towards them), have a vast quantity of agent and get lucky, or have a vast quantity of a very potent agent (like VX) and still get lucky.

        Look at the Tokyo Gas Attack Near perfect conditions for a poison gas attack, but they still only killed 13 people. (Sure, they weren’t using pure Sarin, but I be shocked if Syria had anything much better. )

    2. You could even pay Nicholas Cage to personally stab every Syrian in the heart with a shot of atropine, and still save money.

      1. +1 Rock.

      2. Plus, Nicholas Cage would be somewhere other than here.

  2. A war crimes tribunal to investigate crimes committed by the Assad regime and rebel groups.

    This would be useless unless we’re willing to go in and get Assad. This would require us to put soldiers in the country in order to enforce the findings of the tribunal. No thank you.

    That Yes article is atrocious and I don’t know what kind of mind altering drug the writer was on.

    What would we do if we were to choose peace and the rule of law? Here are six approaches that would help build justice and peace in Syria and elsewhere.

    When someone starts talking about ‘building justice’ you should immediately ignore them.

    1. Bring those guilty of atrocities to justice.

    It’s so simple!

    The United States should strengthen the ability of the ICC to hold war criminals accountable by signing on and ratifying the statute that created the court in 1998.

    Even before bringing Assad and his allies to the ICC, Frank Jannuzi of Amnesty International told YES!, it’s possible to punish these individuals with travel restrictions and targeted economic sanctions.

    This person honestly believes that travel restrictions and the signing of statutes will make Assad back down. How would that criminal court hold Assad ‘accountable’ without American troops going in to get him? Author doesn’t say.

    1. It gets worse.

      2. Call for a United Nations embargo on arms, military supplies, and logistical support for both Damascus and opposition forces.

      And what if Iran and Russia just ignore those sanctions? How about the terrorist organizations supplying rebel groups?

      But Russia and Iran are not the only culprits. Bennis continues: “The U.S. must stop and must push Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Jordan and others to stop arming and funding the opposition, including the extremist elements.” How can we exert pressure on those regimes? “That won’t be easy,” says Bennis.

      But we and the Russians do have leverage. For example, she says, Washington could tell the Saudis and Qataris that we will cancel all existing weapons contracts with them if they don’t stop arming the opposition.

      In which case the Saudis will keep funding the opposition, they’ll just do it under the table. This is absurd.

      Here’s the worst one though:

      4. Offer aid and support to the nonviolent movements within Syria, or, at least, don’t undermine them. A resurgence in Syria’s broad-based nonviolent movement for change that started in March 2011 is still a source of hope, according to Stephen Zunes, chair of Middle Eastern studies at the University of San Francisco.

      LOL what? A ‘nonviolent movement’ in Syria would result in a lot of nonviolent people being gunned down in the streets by government forces.

      1. Didn’t this whole thing start as a nonviolent movement?

        1. Yes. Then the government started shooting people, people got tired of getting shot, and things kind of went sideways from there.

          1. If only they had used the power of Rock ‘n Roll!

            1. They’re not part of the free world. How do you expect them to keep on rockin’?

              Yeesh.

              1. The same way they did in the U.S.S.R before the fall of communism.

      2. The Russians expect to be paid, and if they have to write off outstanding contracts, they’ll find some way to make up for it elsewhere. Besides, a post-Assad regime will want to buy Russian-made arms, anyway, for sake of economy and standardization.

        I would ask, what if our GCC client states also flagrantly circumvent arms sanctions?

  3. Option 2 makes us the ally of the butters.

    Options 1 and 3 are pointless exercises in tranzi/diplomatic featherbedding.

  4. Reason – thank you for sharing a *First Things* article with your readers!

    Let me quote the concluding paragraph of that article:

    “There is something about American liberalism that makes it think irresponsibly about war. Perhaps that stems from its optimism about humanity. Unable to see sin for what it is, liberals don’t discipline themselves to think through the hard truths about fighting and deterring evil. Then, as events force them to resort to lethal force, they are so confident in their good intentions that they neglect careful moral analysis of their actions. Or perhaps it’s the utilitarian mentality that provides the functional morality of American liberalism, as if killing a few hundred people in Syria for symbolic purposes is by definition more just than substantive military action toward a clearly articulated goal that is sure to cause thousands of fatalities.”

    1. Or perhaps it’s the utilitarian mentality that provides the functional morality of American liberalism, as if killing a few hundred people in Syria for symbolic purposes is by definition more just than substantive military action toward a clearly articulated goal that is sure to cause thousands of fatalities.”

      Yeah I don;t know if that works. if killing 100 people is more just then 1000 then isn’t killing no one even more just.

      Also The left, at least the majority of them, seem to either be saying nothing or protesting bombing Syria.

      The only left that is pushing for War are the ones who are in power.

      I think the left is simply an ideology made of paper. They hold it up in order to gain power then once they get power toss it out and then go on doing what every tyrant has done since the beginning of time. If anything the left’s ideology is simply a replacement for what religion use to be used for by those seeking power.

  5. Allow those displaced by the conflict to immigrate to the U.S. as refugees. If they really want to live in a mostly secular, peaceful, and free(ish) society, then give them a chance.

    1. Oh boy, the refugee resettlement scam! Yeah, let’s have more of THAT.

  6. Think of all the school lunches we could buy with the cost of a single Tomahawk missile, and then multiply that by several hundred. This isn’t just a waste of expensive ordnance, it’s also a theft from the very potential for positive social change that everyone thought Obama was promising.

    1. ‘Think of taxes the government wouldn’t have stolen for the cost of a single Tomahawk missile’

      Fixed.

      1. That argument rings hollow with the variety of people to whom taxes are a moral imperative, which means Republicans when it suits them and Democrats always, unless you fall under their arbitrary threshold.

      2. Nah…we need Tomahawk missiles. They are some of the few items the state is actually justified in taxing people to make.

        But maybe you are talking about the replacement missiles that need to be replaced once Obama uses our current stockpile in a very unpopular bombing that does nothing to protect US interests.

        Yeah those tax dollars will be stolen.

        1. Corning| 9.7.13 @ 3:23PM |#
          “Nah…we need Tomahawk missiles. They are some of the few items the state is actually justified in taxing people to make.”

          My comment was specific to Jon Lester’s comment.
          I agree that defense is one of the few proper functions of government, but my idea of “defense” prolly doesn’t square with those who work in the Pentagon.

      3. I will be a good day when the Air Force has all the nukes it needs and the government schools need to beg on streetcorners to raise funds for the sex education classes.

        1. Why the fixation on sex education? It’s probably one of the few useful things they teach you in school.

          1. Hey, you’re the guy who doesn’t want to read Jesse Walker’s book!

            1. PS – To whom to you attribute your current knowledge about sex? Your public school?

              1. PS – To whom to you attribute your current knowledge about sex? Your public school?

                The 15-year-old who molested him when he was 6.

    2. No. As bad as war in Syria would be, the “social change” that Obama promised domestically would be so much worse if it were to come to pass.

  7. ” Obama is seeking a response that is “just muscular enough not to get mocked””.

    Too late.

    1. I should try this – “I know mine isn’t as big as some people’s, but it’s big enough not to get mocked, right? Right?”

      1. They’re always mockable. There’s pretty much nothing pleasant or dignified about them.

  8. Arming the rebels is a terrible idea, just as arming insurgents and paramilitaries has been a terrible idea throughout American history. It always, always comes back to bite us in the ass.

    I like the idea of providing humanitarian aid, but considering that the federal government can’t even get disaster relief right in its own back yard, I think even that option would do more harm than good.

    1. If the GCC states really want to arm the rebels, they should do it from their own inventories, and when they need to restock, they can pay us market prices. They could also use the same money to provide humanitarian relief, if they would make it a priority, but there’s not much good anyone else can do if they won’t.

      I seriously wonder if we’re being extorted somehow by the house of Saud.

    2. Also, let us not forget that the CIA has previously used medical aid programs as cover for its nefarious deeds. So even if the government were able to set up a competent, well-supplied, and useful humanitarian aid effort (a big if), there would be no reason for the Syrian refugees to trust it.

  9. I see no clause in the Constitution which empowers the Congress to give money to foreign rebellions with nothing in exchange. It is neither the “common defense” nor “general welfare” of the United States, nor can it plausibly be read into the other powers granted to the US by the Constitution. Absent a treaty ratified by 2/3 of the Senate, like the Louisiana Purchase- and there is no government to sign a treaty with here- there is no legal basis for aid to the Syrian rebels.

    1. Commerce Clause. Those weapons and components have to cross state lines at some point.

  10. And Syria remains NOT OUR FUCKING PROBLEM.

    I vote for nothing. DO NOTHING.

    There are no good guys to aid. Humanitarian relief will end up in the hands of the factions using violence. (See: Somalia) Getting involved will antagonize Russia and China, two nations that actually matter, one of whom is significantly funding the continuing operation of the US Government.

    Stay the fuck away. When it’s all over we can see what it looks like and address it from there.

    1. Agree with this 100%.

    2. I say we send John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Bill Kristol, and Joe Liebermann over there to kick some Baathist ass. If they’re half as tough as their rhetoric, they’ll defeat Assad in a matter of hours.

  11. I thought every thread on the weekend was open.

    1. Like Obama, Nick is making authoritative commands over a situation that in reality is far beyond his control.

  12. [/sarc off]

    Let them kill each other.

    [/sarc on]

    1. Is that really necessary, coming from you?

  13. 1. Bring those guilty of atrocities to justice.

    None of this would ever have happened if those backstabbers in the Senate had done the right thing and ratified the League of Nations treaty.

  14. Offer aid and support to the nonviolent movements within Syria, or, at least, don’t undermine them. A resurgence in Syria’s broad-based nonviolent movement for change that started in March 2011 is still a source of hope, according to Stephen Zunes, chair of Middle Eastern studies at the University of San Francisco.

    If I had a drum, I’d definitely send it to Syria.

    1. If I had a hammer, I’d smash my neighbor’s drum.

  15. There is something about American liberalism that makes it think irresponsibly about war. Perhaps that stems from its optimism about humanity.

    Bullshit. If liberalism is optimistic about humanity, why do they so desperately fight to put us in chains?

    That whole paragraph was incoherent blather.

    1. Optimism that humanity can be molded to their ideal. Sowell talks about it in A Conflict of Visions.

      1. Optimism about humanity in general, not about any given individual human. That translates into optimism about the willingness and ability *of liberals* to do good for others, whether said others like or not.

        “why do they so desperately fight to put us in chains?”

        Have you read any of the slavery-apologist literature from the 19th century? They claimed that slavery was a favor to the slaves, a favor benevolently bestowed on them out the their owners’ overflowing Christian charity. These same slaveowners would at the same time go on and on about the poor enslaved people of monarchial Europe.

          1. In fairness, positive examples and results of colonialism are far more numerous than those of slavery.

        1. Optimism about humanity in general, not about any given individual human.

          This is it in a nutshell. Reminds me of a vaguely-recalled quote about loving humanity being much easier than loving humans, because humanity never shows up at your door stinking and hungry.– sounds like GK Chesterton but I can’t find it on his Wikiquote page.

          One I did find:

          The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.

    2. optimism about humanity

      Yeah i think Eduard misses a few steps in his thesis.

      The left are optimistic about the few brilliant men who can lead humanity to utopia by any means necessary.

      The Humanity of the US polling very different things about the bombing then the left’s brilliant men in power right now.

      1. A common thesis in this school of liberalism is that human beings are naturally good – like liberals, in other words – but other people are corrupted by “society” and sinister special interests. That’s why, say, many workers oppose policies which clearly benefit them, such as compulsory unionism. It’s why many women don’t like feminism. Their natural, innate liberalism has been suppressed, and has to be let out under socially-conscious liberals’ kindly ministrations.

        1. As for people who refuse to be liberals, they are simple, childlike creatures, like American slaves, back in the day, and like the slaves, they have to undergo firm but gentle correction when their behavior endangers the collective.

          1. The only people who are *intrinsically* evil are the heads of the KKKochporations, the people duping the women, minorities, workers, etc. into voting against their own interests. Expose these malefactors, or stop them from spreading their ideological poison, and the enlightenment process can change the minds of the masses.

          2. Call them “proggies”, “progtards”, “proglodytes”, “lefties”, or “leftards”… but please… do *not* call them “liberal”, Mr. “conservatarian”.

            1. I’ll call them what I want, and they’ll like it, too!

              1. I am a liberal.

                And I do not particularly like it when you equate a bunch of murderous Marxists with me.

                1. OK, how about this – I move to strike out “liberal” wherever it occurs in the above posts, and replace it with “Progtard.”

                  All in favor?

                  All opposed?

  16. Wait, “open thread”? What does that mean?

    1. I think it means “We’re taking the rest of the day off.”

    2. I means do what we normally do (post off topic, link to Jezabel, discuss Roman history, debate the plot of “Last of Us”, etc) only this time it is sanctioned.

    3. It means that instead of debating deep dish “pizza”, we get to murder anyone who eats it.

  17. My Alternative is simple:
    ignore them, and it will go away. Why should we arm rebels that we’ll be fighting to overthrow (either covertly or overtly), in a few years.

  18. This turn of events should make it blisteringly obvious to anyone that wants to claim any degree of objectivity that this administration’s foreign policy is a incoherent and dangerous mass of reactive, interventionist crap. In some ways the seemingly aimless nature of the President’s overseas policies (or lack thereof) are more dangerous than those of his predecessor.

  19. An alternative:

    Disband our own government as an example to the world that advanced societies are stateless societies where all the political clout and buying power has been returned to the people. Where authority has become a dirty word and every man and woman is sovereign. The best we can do is show Syrians and everyone else there is a better way to live, and right now, we are not selling the best product we could be making, Serenity. Seed their clouds with peace bombs and when it rains in Syria the partitions will fold into one, and the fighting will stop.

    Impractical? Unreal? No more so than the ‘solutions’ that are on the table already. Committees, conferences, arming rebels, aid, etc. Sounds like NGO and political science major pay day to me.

  20. Do we have any solutions that would fit neatly on a bumper sticker?

    1. Stay. Out.

    2. Syria? Are You Serious?

  21. Speaking of racism

    In the magazine interview, Bloomberg reserved his strongest words for de Blasio, who is white, taking issue in particular with the visible role played by the candidate’s wife, who is black, and their two children.

    De Blasio’s son, Dante, who is biracial and wears his hair in a tall Afro, starred in a campaign ad that promoted de Blasio’s opposition to the controversial stop-and-frisk policing tactic that overwhelmingly targets young black and Latino men.

    “I mean he’s making an appeal using his family to gain support. I think it’s pretty obvious to anyone watching what he’s been doing,” Bloomberg told the magazine. “I do not think he himself is racist. It’s comparable to me pointing out I’m Jewish in attracting the Jewish vote. You tailor messages to your audiences and address issues you think your audience cares about.”

    He’s keeping Whitey down!

    1. “You tailor messages to your audiences and address issues you think your audience cares about.”

      If you can imagine!

    2. How dare someone object to the Constitutional protections of his son being compromised when public safety is at stake! Of course, De Blasio being a New York politician likely supports the purpose ‘Stop and Frisk’ policy serves — the nullification of the 2nd Amendment.

    3. He’s just jealous he doesn’t have a mulatto kid to parade around for cheap votes. Although he’s probably got the Jewish mother vote locked down.

    4. I am confused about the whole New York Mayor’s election.

      This is the primaries right?

      And Bloomberg is not running again?

      So where is the news about the republican primaries?

      1. It’s pretty much a given that NYC will swig back to (official) Dem control for the first time since Dinkins.

        No GOP candidate has a chance this time around.

        1. When the media excludes competing parties, it kind of makes it a self fulfilling prophecy, no?

  22. Have Congress commit now, before the war is over, to reconstruction funds only to be released with the war stops.

    The bigger the pot is, the bigger the incentive to stop fighting, which is cute, but clearly secondary.

    A very sad revelation will be that the U.S. Congress would be willing to spend 10 times more bombing a place than helping it.

    1. Bombing is a jobs program, duh!

      Blow up a building keeping ordnance production employees on the job and then creating construction jobs to rebuild.

      No broken windows here, no sir.

  23. Well now that makes all kinds of crazy sense!

    http://www.AnonWebz.tk

  24. 1)

    We have learned lessons from the Special Court in Sierra Leone, we have learned lessons from the Rwandan Court, and certainly learned lessons from the Court in Yugoslavia.

    We certainly have. Those lessons are that international courts work slowly, are politicized, rarely attack client states of large and powerful nations, and necessarily dispense justice after the atrocity is largely over (if they get around to it at all). Not a complete waste of time in all cases, but it certainly is in this case.

    2)

    Her suggestions are heavy on U.N. participation, including calling for international embargos on weapons and “forcing the hand” of Russia and China on the security council, and supporting non-violent movements in Syria.

    Name one example of such pressure working in a non-Western, non-democratic country with an international patron.

    3)

    We could conceivably arm the rebels.

    No. Arming the losers prolongs conflict, and right now the moderate secularists are on the losing side. Unless we are willing to intervene to a greater extent to make sure they come out on top, it is impractical and immoral to extend false hope and prolong the violence in Syria.

    1. The only moderates are on Assad’s side.

      The rebels are fighting for Shariah law, while Assad’s side is fighting against it.

      Yeah, it’s not cut and dried, since you have Hezbollah fighting for Assad, so maybe they will have a bigger role if Assad wins than previously.

      But it’s amazing how Christians managed to survive what, 1300 years of their lands being conquered by muslims, yet they probably aren’t going to survive the Obama presidency

  25. I think war against our actual enemies, Al-Qaeda, should be an option. Just because they are fighting Assad now doesn’t mean they won’t start fighting us again once they get a chance.

    1. Hits the nail on the head.

      If BO wants to go to war in Syria, he should at least go to war against the side he already has an AUMF against (ie, the al-Qaeda allies among the rebels).

  26. AMERICA!

    FUCK YEAH!

    HERE TO SAVE THE MOTHERFUCKIN’ DA-AY!

  27. Maybe the solution really is that the people in Washington, D.C. trying to scare us into yet another war can just all get f—ed and that in itself is a wonderful outcome, irrespective of who the good and bad guys in Syria are.

  28. The only idea I’ve seen with any merit is to arm the Iraqi Kurds. Heck, take money from the Arab groups that want to pay us to take out Assad, and use it to pay for weapons for the Kurds. Let them go to town.

  29. Here’s a prescription for Syrian peace and more.

    Sell weapons to both sides. Then publicize that you’re doing it, and make fun of them. The only way for them to end the shame is to stop fighting.

    And if they don’t stop fighting, at least you make a lot of money.

  30. What kind of open thread do you call this? It hasn’t even broken the 100 mark.

    Has the thread been *circumcised* or something?

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