In our poll from last month, Peace Action West members voted to support peaceful solutions to the crisis in Syria, while opposing military intervention. But what are things the US and the international community can do to help? It’s a complex crisis, and the complexity is compounded by the fact that our country tends to use military might to solve far too many problems. We don’t have as many examples of positive nonmilitary tools as we should.
Luckily, there are a lot of individuals and organizations doing great work on human rights and conflict that have recommendations. Here are some nonmilitary actions that could help stop the bloodshed and resolve the Syrian crisis.
- Impose an arms embargo on Syria.
- Freeze the assets of and apply targeted sanctions to Bashar al-Assad and his senior associates.
- Push for the UN Security Council to refer Syrian leaders to the International Criminal Court. If the UNSC does not respond, the US could push for an independent war crimes tribunal.
- Negotiations with key nations such as Iran and Russia, as well as amongst political factions within Syria.
- Pressure on Russia and China to use their influence with Syria to push for an end to violence.
- Support expanded UN monitoring of the situation.
- Support Kofi Annan’s new plan for ending the conflict, including formation of a transitional national unity government and formation of a “contact group” to pressure Syria to end the violence.
- Humanitarian and development aid to assist refugees and support Syrians post-conflict.
There are other options that have been proposed, but there are concerns that they could open the door to military action. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) is amongst those advocating safe zones for refugees along Syria’s border, an idea that sounds appealing on its face. Professor and author Marc Lynch called safe zones “military half measures” that would likely spread violence and argued against their efficacy in testimony to Congress:
Using air power to protect civilians and defend the opposition within safe areas or humanitarian corridors is even more complex. Such safe areas could most easily be established and protected along the Turkish border, but most of the threatened civilians live in other parts of Syria. Humanitarian corridors would be extremely difficult to protect, and could create a new refugee crisis if desperate civilians rush into designated safe zones or neighboring countries. Protecting either would require a serious commitment of resources. Declaring a safe area without defending it effectively would only repeat the painful mistakes of history. In Bosnia, thousands of people were murdered in Srebrenica and other designated safe areas when peacekeepers lacked the means to protect them. Even historical “successes” are sobering. Operation Provide Comfort, established in northern Iraq after 1991, was envisioned as a short-term crisis response, but turned into a 12-year commitment that ended only when the United States invaded Iraq in 2003. Creating and protecting a safe area in Syria would therefore require a significant and lengthy investment of troops and resources, and would not likely hasten Assad’s collapse.
With the casualty count rising and tension increasing on the border with Turkey, this is a critical time to push for a nonmilitary response. Click here to take action to pressure the Obama administration to support peaceful solutions to the conflict in Syria.
Categories: Middle East