Choosing the Path of Peace in Syria Part One: The Siren Song of the No-Fly Zone

 In diplomacy, Libya


This is Part One of Peace Action’s multi-part series on U.S. Syria policy.

Choosing the Path of Peace in Syria

After five years of war, there is an urgent need for solutions that can save lives and bring peace to the war-torn country of Syria. Witnessing the humanitarian disaster should be unbearable to any human being with a heart. In cities like Damascus and Aleppo, some of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world, whole neighborhoods with their homes, schools, and hospitals have been leveled. Human rights violations are committed daily by all parties to the conflict. Millions of people are being displaced, forced to live in crowded camps or strange lands far from home.

The scale of the suffering is staggering. More than 1 in 10 Syrians have been injured or killed since the beginning of war. Recent estimates of the Syrian loss of life range from 143,091 to 470,000. Deaths are caused by the conflict directly, and by the damage caused by the war: collapse of healthcare systems, limited access to medicine, poor sanitation, and food shortages. A central dynamic of this humanitarian crisis has been attacks on lifesaving medical care: Physicians for Human Rights has documented 336 attacks on medical facilities and deaths of 697 medical personnel. The conflict has also pushed poverty levels to 85%, and an estimated 750,000 children in Syria half of the total number of children in Syria have lost access to any formal education.

The global community, all people of conscience, must come together to call unambiguously for an end to the violence and violations of basic human rights. Polling from earlier this year shows that a majority of Syrians support a political and diplomatic solution to the conflict. Polls also show that Syrian refugees prefer an “end to the fighting” as the most important goal in the conflict, and despite the divided loyalties created by the war, one poll’s “respondents showed a remarkable willingness to help their fellow citizens, regardless of political affiliation.” Zaidoun al-Zoabi head of the Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organizations, spoke to CNN and offered a message, heartbreaking and clear, shared by many Syrians: “What have we done to endure such a bloody, stupid war?” al-Zoabi asked. “It is enough for us, we are so tired. So helpless… Please end this war, do something to end this war.”

To find sustainable solutions to the conflict we’ll need to separate the siren song of quick military fixes being promoted in the U.S., many of which could cause even greater violence, from real lasting peacemaking. We believe the path of peace is composed of relentless, full-time diplomatic push for a ceasefire agreement and a sustained effort to maintain that ceasefire and repair any breaches; intensive Syrian-led diplomacy for a political resolution; urgent humanitarian action; economic aid to stabilize the region; and an end to the foreign intervention and arms transfers helping to fuel the conflict. The complex multi-party proxy war that is being played out in Syria, where numerous nations are using the war to advance their divergent governmental interests, is causing much of the suffering. Those countries meddling in Syria, from the U.S. to Russia to various regional powers, should turn away from fanning the flames and support the Syrians in finding a political solution. Here in the U.S., grassroots action can push the U.S. away from false military solutions and onto the path of peace.

Unfortunately, most policymakers are primarily driven by short-sighted geopolitical interests; so much so that protecting civilians often takes a back seat. But among those of us who prioritize protecting civilian lives, reasonable people can disagree on the best ways to go about it. Some advocate military intervention on behalf of civilians given seemingly endless killing, others say that only diplomacy and humanitarian action can end the suffering and that more arms and bombs only add fuel to a raging fire. This series aims to make the case that focusing our efforts on diplomatic and humanitarian approaches to the conflict will be the most effective way to protect civilians and accelerate an end to the war and that military escalations will only prolong the suffering. But we acknowledge the instinct to protect Syrian civilians that unites many people in compassion and empathy, emotions that transcend borders and cross oceans.

This series will examine four common proposals for military escalation in Syria: no-fly zones, safe zones, bombing Syrian government forces, and increasing military support to opposition forces. It will then examine the role the U.S. can play in advancing diplomatic and humanitarian strategies that offer the best hope for ending the bloodshed and protecting civilians.

While the sections on military escalations will focus on the specifics of each proposal, it’s important to bear in mind the legality or potential lack thereof of these military approaches. All of them would require both congressional and United Nations approval, both of which could be difficult to obtain. In fact, the current U.S. military intervention in Syria is contrary to both U.S. and international law. Continuing to act without those legal mandates would add to the harmful perception around the world of the U.S. as a nation that seeks to impose its will militarily — a perception that fuels an anti-Americanism that has led to everything from nonviolent protests to the very the terrorism that the U.S. says it is trying to combat in the Middle East.

This post discusses one of the most high profile military proposals: a no-fly zone, which could escalate the war in complicated and unpredictable ways, and end up causing more suffering in Syria.

No-Fly Zones: An Easy Political Slogan, They Can Backfire Quickly

A formation of U.S. Navy F-18E Super Hornets leaves after receiving fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over northern Iraq, Sept. 23, 2014. These aircraft were part of a large coalition strike package that was the first to strike ISIL targets in Syria. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Nickel)

During the 2016 election cycle, candidates in both parties have casually bandied about the concept of a no-fly zone in Syria. In the third and final presidential debate, Chris Wallace, the debate moderator, asked a pointed question on the proposal for a no-fly zone in Syria, pointing out that President Obama opposes setting up a no-fly zone and General Joseph Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has warned that it could mean war with not only Syria, but Russia as well. Finishing his question, Wallace asked:

If you impose a no-fly zone — first of all, how do you respond to their concerns? Secondly, if you impose a no-fly zone and a Russian plane violates that, does President Clinton shoot that plane down?

Clinton responded by saying that while she is well aware of those legitimate concerns, she thinks “a no-fly zone could save lives and hasten the end of the conflict.” Later in the debate she expanded upon that, arguing that a no-fly zone would help the U.S. “gain some leverage on both the Syrian government and the Russians.”

In the debate, Clinton lacked the subtlety she displayed in recently leaked transcripts reported to be of her private speeches to Goldman Sachs. The speeches in general reveal, unsurprisingly, a highly intelligent foreign policy professional with a serious understanding of current geopolitics (albeit from a conventional D.C. security elite perspective). At the same time, the transcripts reveal concern about the simplistic thinking on no-fly zones Clinton herself appeared to be offering in the more public televised debate:

To have a no-fly zone you have to take out all of the air defense, many of which are located in populated areas. So our missiles, even if they are standoff missiles so we’re not putting our pilots at risk—you’re going to kill a lot of Syrians… So all of a sudden this intervention that people talk about so glibly becomes an American and NATO involvement where you take a lot of civilians.

Clinton, speaking in her private political voice, is absolutely right. The term “no-fly zone” sounds like a tried and true, relatively simple fix; like a tourniquet, CPR, or the Heimlich maneuver. In reality it is a vague concept that awkwardly blends the political and military and that has only been experimented with four times: twice in Iraq, once in Bosnia, and most recently in Libya. Since the situation in Syria is most akin to the situation in Libya, what happened there in 2011 provides a prime example of what could go wrong in Syria.

Lessons from Libya: No-Fly Zones Can Increase Civilian Suffering

The imposition of a no-fly zone in Libya was sold to the American public as a necessary intervention to prevent Muammar Qaddafi, Libya’s Prime Minister at the time, from massacring civilians. However, the humanitarian objective of the no-fly zone was quickly subsumed by the goal of facilitating regime change. In conjunction with a covert American program to arm Libyan militias, the NATO mission spent most of its time attacking Qaddafi forces and providing air cover to anti-Qaddafi forces that had almost as much of a penchant for war crimes as the pro-Qaddafi forces. The anti-Qaddafi forces NATO helped install engaged in crimes against humanity on a wide scale including ethnic cleansing.

Since the intervention, we’ve turned our back on a Libya that is far less safe for civilians than when we first intervened. By the end of the NATO air war, civilian casualties had skyrocketed and Libya had slipped into the failed state and safe haven for terrorist groups it is today. As Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International described it:

In today’s Libya [after the NATO intervention] the rule of the gun has taken hold. Armed groups and militias are running amok, launching indiscriminate attacks in civilian areas and committing widespread abuses, including war crimes, with complete impunity.

As the New York Times put it earlier this year, the current situation in Libya calls into question “whether the intervention prevented a humanitarian catastrophe or merely helped create one of a different kind.”

With a similarly brutal dictator in Syria, the CIA’s program to arm anti-Assad rebels, and the necessity of bombing a wide range of Syrian and Russian military assets in order to impose a no-fly zone, there’s no reason to believe that the result would be any better than it was in Libya.

No-Fly Zones and the World War III Problem

This brings us to the next major problem with imposing a no-fly zone in Syria, which some have dubbed “the World War III problem.” What of the scenario of confrontation with Russia that Chris Wallace brought up in his question about the no-fly zone? Would Russia, which has staked much of its reputation as a resurgent geopolitical player on its intervention in Syria, simply stand down in the face of this effort to “gain leverage” over Russia? Strong economic, cultural and military ties between Syria and Russia go back four decades and are only growing tighter. Russia is highly motivated to protect Russian military assets in Syria that allow it to project power beyond its strategic backyard.

Given this dynamic, bombing Syrian and Russian air defenses in Syria, which would be necessary to impose a no-fly zone, would likely provoke a military response from Russia. If a Russian plane then violated the no-fly zone and the president ordered it shot down, that would likely provoke another military response. Either scenario could easily lead to a dangerous cycle of escalation, potentially turning Syria’s proxy war into a direct war between two countries that maintain thousands of nuclear weapons.

Escalating tensions between the U.S. and Russia fueled by both countries’ involvement in Syria, among other factors, has already caused serious, concrete policy damage. In October, shortly after talks between the U.S. and Russia over the Syrian conflict broke down, Russia suspended critical cooperation between the U.S. and Russia on joint nuclear weapons cleanup and non-proliferation programs. One analyst speculated, “at this rate, the next casualties could be the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty (signed in 1987), New START (2010), the Comprehensive Test Ban (CTB) Treaty (1996), and eventually the entire nuclear arms control and nonproliferation framework that has taken so many decades to build.”

Equally forebodingly, Russia is beefing up its already significant air defense systems in Syria. Karen De Young reported in the Washington Post in mid-October that “deployment of mobile and interchangeable S-400 and S-300 missile batteries, along with other short-range systems, now gives Russia the ability to shoot down planes and cruise missiles over at least 250 miles in all directions from western Syria, covering virtually all of that country as well as significant portions of Turkey, Israel, Jordan and the eastern Mediterranean.” Such air defenses, coupled with the Syrian and Russian air forces, are a huge obstacle to any no-fly zone. Were the U.S. to try to defeat them, the cost, risk, and potential for escalation would be far greater than earlier no-fly zones against relatively outdated militaries fielded in post-Gulf War Iraq, Bosnia, and Libya. Given the realities of modern high-tech air defenses, some military experts with U.S. Air Force experience have argued that the no-fly zone is an idea whose time has come and gone, saying, “Just as the shield was made obsolete by gunpowder-powered weapons, warfare has evolved beyond what the promise of the no-fly zone can provide.”

The Costs of a No-Fly Zone

After 15 years of war for the U.S. — wars that economists now estimate cost the U.S. public a staggering $5 trillion — the burden that the American people would bear has to be part of the equation. The former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Martin Dempsey, addressed this by writing to Congress that a no-fly zone would take 70,000 U.S. military personnel and could cost a billion dollars a month to maintain. Some speculate that Dempsey was inflating those figures trying to push back against escalation boosters in Congress like Senator John McCain (R-AZ). But even if Dempsey were being that sly, when it comes to predicting the costs of unpredictable interventions, costs tend to be universally underestimated no matter what the political intent.

In Part Two of this series, we will examine a concept frequently discussed in tandem, and sometimes interchangeably, with no-fly zones: the so called “safe zone.”

Click here to read Part Two of this series: “Safe Zones” Aren’t Safe

Click here to read Part Three of this series: The Perils of Another American Quagmire

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  • jarrodmyrick

    Garbage analysis

    • larakeller1937

      You say “We believe the path of peace is composed of relentless, full-time diplomatic push for a ceasefire agreement and a sustained effort to maintain that ceasefire and repair any breaches; intensive Syrian-led diplomacy for a political resolution; urgent humanitarian action; economic aid to stabilize the region; and an end to the foreign intervention and arms transfers helping to fuel the conflict.” This is waffle, that has been tried for 5 years with zero success. The truth is that Assad and Putin have zero interest in peace. This kind of “peace talk” is really conspiracy with dictatorship. Syrians are calling for a No Bomb Zone (see You then go on to say “The anti-Qaddafi forces NATO helped install engaged in crimes against humanity on a wide scale including ethnic cleansing.” Actually Libyans rose up against the oppressive Qaddafi regime. The West supported ad hoc armed groups to overthrow Qaddafi , but abandoned reconstruction. The problem was lack of partnership with the Libyan Opposition, not No Fly Zones.

      • Jon Rainwater

        larakeller1937 Thanks for your thoughts. IT’s good to see how people are thinking about these things and we need robust debate.

        Peace has not been the main modus operandi for the last 5 years, that is entirely the problem. The U.S. and its allies has been sending tons of weapons in for a number of years and bombing more recently. Just like Russia and Assad. But everyone agrees only a political solution can ULTIMATELY solve this. But the belligerents seek military escalation to get more “leverage” for diplomacy later. So an actual political settlement is pushed away. That is the fault of too little diplomatic seriousness and too much war. It’s not caused by too little war!

        We do appreciate that many people in Syria desperately want the conflict to end and some may even seek that in military intervention. We also appreciate the difficulty of diplomacy and the current military-first posture of Russia and the Assad government (as with other governments looking for military advantage.)

        But it is not accurate to say “Syrians are calling for a on fly zone”. Which Syrians? You should say some Syrians. Are we talking about the one’s in government controlled areas? In anti-government areas? The one’s doing the fighting a committed winning the war or the one’s who just want peace and an end to the bombing. The refugees? The Syrian people are not monolithic any more than in any other country. We at least cite poll numbers and what Syrians say in the polls we cite is they want peace.

        Likewise yes some Libyans rose up against Qaddafi but that does not make the facts that you quote from our piece untrue. The anti-government forces DID engage in widespread human rights violations yet you gloss over that. Reconstruction funds would not have simply prevented those human rights violations. Civilian deaths went UP after the intervention. You fail to engage in that fact. The U.S. was told that “protesters” would be protected but in fact NATO fought in a full-fledged civil war that caused a lot of bloodshed. One can respect the Libyans and Syrians who bravely fight against repressive dictatorships without a) acting like the entire country always agrees with them or b) glossing over the harm that can be caused by external interventions.

        And to again quote the human rights expert quoted: “In today’s Libya [after the NATO intervention] the rule of the gun has taken hold. Armed groups and militias are running amok, launching indiscriminate attacks in civilian areas and committing widespread abuses, including war crimes, with complete impunity.” That is not a good outcome for civilians not matter what hopes they have for their country. To say “the NATO intervention didn’t cause the problems lack of follow on aid did” is a gross oversimplification. As in Iraq you can’t separate the regime change from the occupation and everything that followed. It is worth pointing out that a massive occupation in Iraq, along with years of war, did not provide stability and now the U.S. has returned almost 15 years later with pitched battles taking place right now largely thanks to the Iraq intervention. None of this is that simple.

        The point is that no fly zones and destabilizing a country can and has led to horrible results. If you want to fully engage with that argument then please say what you are proposing. Are you suggesting we should remove Assad and then have a U.S. occupation? For how long? How will this work so it doesn’t turn out like Iraq and Syria. Given the mess we have created the burden is on proponents of more war to say how this will be different.

        No one is saying Assad and Russia want peace right now. Nor do the other combatants on the other side. They are all fighting for leverage and advantage. That is what diplomacy is for. To find a way to find common interests that can start to build peace. Ceasefires in Syria have succeeded in saving lives. If you are abandoning any hope of a peace agreement with Russia what are you suggesting? Are you proposing a shooting war with Russia where at no point you return to the negotiating table? You just have some tremendous resounding victory and can do what ever you want? That is easy to wish for but we’ve seen again and gain it is impossible to impose. Again proponents of more war have a burden to really lay out what they are proposing.

  • larakeller1937

    Jon Rainwater thank you for reply. There are a number of solidarity groups run by Syrians in the West seeking to gather support for a transition to representative government in Syria. Rather than the Assad Clique who has been running the country as a private estate since 1970, using systematic torture as the main method of ensuring public obedience. This you will agree is not a country at “peace”. Dictatorship is really “civil war” that is hidden from view of the world’s media. The nature and abuses of the Syrian regime have been documented since the 1970s, well before the Hama massacre in 1982. Criticism of the West’s progressive peace movements on the Syrian Crisis, is that 1.No acknowledgment this is a revolution. 2. Lack of insight into the nature and history of the Assad regime. 3. An orientalist view that centres on how progressive politics in the West is linked to foreign interventions. 4. No analysis of partnership alternatives to “intervention”. 5. Sloganeering which panders to the sensibilities of a Western secure populace whose rights are protected. This is harsh, but the sense of betrayal is very raw, leading to accusations of “conspiracy with dictatorship”. ……… The mainstream Syrian opposition are the overwhelming majority and they want an end to dictatorship, while Assad’s clique with the support of Putin want to continue dictatorship. This is the fundamental asymmetry between the two main “sides”. This starting point is disputed flatly by ideologues termed “Assad Apologists”, and picked at by more subtle doubters. Accepting this starting point, then there is no possibility of a diplomatic solution in the current situation. Peace activists are applying the right concepts to the wrong situation. These are not two “groups” in a mutually deceptive and damaging spiral of conflict. The Assad group is a brutal dictatorship clinging to power, which is must hold absolutely to ensure its survival. It is composed of the the financial and security elite, which dominate the wider Alawite minority and the apparatus of the Syrian Government and Armed Forces ……… The solution is to arrive at the situation where the concepts of peace building can apply. This means the Assad Clique needs to be shown as in terminal decline, so it can be sidelined and then removed. A meaningful political process can then begin between the Alawites+Syrian Government and Armed Forces on one side, and the Syrian Opposition on the other. To arrive at this point requires imposing real costs on the Assad Regime for its policy of war crimes to force Syrians into accepting endless dictatorship. This takes military action and a strong mainstream armed opposition. ……. Syrians in non-government areas want consequences for the Assad and Putin regime who are bombing them. The Assad and Putin regimes are responsible for around 90% of civilian causalities, and they are doing this in the non government areas. A No Bomb Zone Strategy is different to a No Fly Zone ………… Libya was a revolution of the people against the Gaddafi dictatorship in 2011, as a consequence of the regional MENA Arab Democratic Uprising. The concept of “partnership” I am referring to, is not confined to reconstruction. The Libyan Opposition needed the resources, arms and training to create a professional armed opposition before Gaddafi was overthrown, so they could provide security after the regime ended. They begged for this and did not receive it. Consequently there was a patchwork of divided militias, and the initiative was given to funding from Sunni monarchies and Egyptian military establishment. This was compounded by lack of reconstruction help after Gaddafi was removed, so the new government could not demonstrate legitimacy by providing food, health and housing security to the Libyan people. ……. There is a misquote from the previous post. The problem was lack of “partnership” not just lack of reconstruction “aid”. Please look at “partnership” as a wider concept. ….. Ceasefires have occurred in Syria, especially in Homs, as a prelude to ethnic cleansing and the ability of the Assad regime to move attention to Aleppo. Not a good line I am afraid. Suggesting No Bomb Zone strategy (means destroying **Assad** regime assets when Assad or Putin commit war crimes (ie serious carpet bombing, chemical attacks) in an attempt to strengthen Assad regime, plus providing the resources a stronger Syrian armed opposition needs. There is no WW3, or direct fight with Russia. …… Appeasement will lead to the illusion of Putin’s Eurasian Fascism gaining strength, with more foreign military gambles, and bigger conflicts. A sure recipe for fewer options for the West and greater chance of nuclear conflict. Some peace?

  • Jon Rainwater

    Thanks larakeller1937. Speaking for myself I certainly agree with you and share your values when you speak of living under a brutal dictatorship as a form of violence that is some sense a nation not a peace. But let’s not act is if that means that many Syrian don’t crave an end to a conflict and a ceasefire immediately. They are both horrible and many Syrian may not want to live in a Syria with Assad in power at all, but that does not mean that ceasefires don’t save lives and that many Syrians don’t the bombs to stop falling yesterday.

    While I agree with many of the concerns you raise about the Assad regime, you don’t seem to engage with the arguments we are putting forward. You say “there is no fight with Russia” but many, many military analysts and foreign policy experts say that a conflict with Russia could exactly happen with a no fly zone. We didn’t make this up for rhetorical purposes it is a possibility that needs to be fully addressed and proponents have not generally addressed it. YOu point out again that many Libyans wanted to live without oppression by Ghaddafi but you don’t engage with the fact that things got more violent and worse for many Syrians. It is possible to empathize with people’s desire for self-determination AND to point out how the military quick fixes proposed now will make matters worse.

    I am not sure what partnership alternatives you’d suggest outside of intervention or what exactly you mean by partnership alternatives. Peace Action is not an international solidarity group we focus on U.S. policy. But we would be interested in what non-interventionist models of partnership you have in mind. Later in this series we will suggest U.S. policies that can aid the Syrian people (e.g. economic development tools like Syrian led efforts in building schools, education being key in rebuilding Syria). One flaw in your analysis that I have heard Syrian born analysts like Bassam Haddad raise is the problem of conflating the initial revolution and its best values of freedom with the armed anti-government militias fighting Assad (my words not his). What happened in Libya was not just lifting the yoke of oppression and I haven’t heard you address the chaos that followed the NATO intervention, you keep pointing back to the initial impulse. Likewise the forces the U.S. would be backing will not necessarily replace the Assad government with democracy as we can see with some of the brutal authoritarianism in some of the rebel held areas. There’s a lot of if only, if only, then it all would have worked out. Like if only we took the rag tag group of militias in Libya and made them into a cohesive force (!) then the chaos would not have ensued. But it’s not so easy. Imposing governments from outside simply doesn’t work that well. Assuming we’ll get it right this time while the region continues to decline largely based on our meddling is a mistake.

    • Ahmed Sakkal

      when the Assad regime and Russians are continuously bombing hospitals, schools, markets, refugee camps, using cluster bombs, chemical bombs, phosphorous bombs on civilian targets, and destroying whole civilian neighborhoods,we are not in the realm of “civil war” or “armed conflicts”, we are in the realm of “genocide”, ” war crimes ” and ” holocaust”. These are two different entities, you may have a point when you are dealing with armed conflicts, the best answer could be diplomacy and what you are proposing, but when you are talking about a major genocide, and an ongoing ” new holocaust” with complete failure of multiple peace initiatives, any delay in action is actually going to cause a larger problem, cost lives of innocent victims, and make it much harder and much more costly to stop the war crimes peacefully or otherwise: the WWII and the Bosnian war, are the closest examples , the longer the wait to act and stop the massacres, the larger the price for everyone, and the more extensive the damage to the civilians and the whole world community as a whole.
      Since your opinion article was published,on Nov, 3, thousands of civilians lost their lives in Syria, especially in Aleppo city , many more thousands lost their houses, and many more additional thousands were injured, at least 8 hospitals and medical facilities were bombed and buildings destroyed on top of their inhabitants , air planes are a trademark of Assad and Putin, what they are doing is a clear cut genocide and daily war crimes , unprecedented in type, your idea about a diplomatic solution has been tried again and again, over 5 years, all what came out of it was more destruction and death to innocent civilians , many Syrians feel that Putin, Khameni, and Assad, are partners in war crimes, and that Obama became an un intentional accomplice to them by his failed policy of half-hearted support, of the Syrians in their quest for freedom, and inaction in front of the continued war crimes, they feel he gave minimum help to keep the war going , but certainly not to achieve victory over dictatorship, and certainly not to be able to stop the genocide, , and when he refused to take against Assad, infinite number of war crimes, including using chemical weapons against civilians , he left the door open for Iran, Hezbollah and Russia, on one side and ISIS on the other side to define the conflict and the picture on the ground, while most of the blood shed and victims are the Syrian people.
      The overwhelming majority of Syrians certainly want to have the violence stop, but most are not optimistic due to the continued fruitless actions that failed and are destined to fail due to dealing with this as a ” conflict ” rather than as a ” genocide, and unless we realize these realities, the ideas you are promoting in you opinion, no matter how noble, and ideal they are , are going to fail again.

    • larakeller1937

      A brutal dictatorship is definitely not a country at peace in any sense…………. The counter argument to the problem of No Fly Zones, is in previous comments, even a link to a briefing on the No Bomb Zone Strategy (please see syria solidarity uk website, No Bomb Zone a more detailed briefing)……. Most Libyans wanted to live without Gaddafi’s oppression, not just “many”.

      I did engage strongly with why the transition in Libya has gone wrong. You acknowledge the alternative to “intervention” as “partnership”. I went through what should have been done, and what was not done. I agree with you that a “quick military fix” is insufficient, but that does not mean there is not a military dimension to empowering people striving to live without dictatorship.

      The concept of partnership was enumerated in previous comment as ……. “The concept of partnership I am referring to, is not confined to reconstruction. The Libyan Opposition needed the resources, arms and training to create a professional armed opposition before Gaddafi was overthrown, so they could provide security after the regime ended. They begged for this and did not receive it. Consequently there was a patchwork of divided militias, and the initiative was given to funding from Sunni monarchies and Egyptian military establishment. This was compounded by lack of reconstruction help after Gaddafi was removed, so the new government could not demonstrate legitimacy by providing food, health and housing security to the Libyan people.”

      You say “Peace Action is not an international solidarity group we focus on U.S. policy.” The foreign policies of democratic Western countries are governed by elites, with little public input. This has created shameful serious policy failures, as we both know. My point is that the foreign policy of US, UK, Germany, France …. must be about international solidarity with the peoples (not the elites) of other nations. This is “non interventionist” as not about invading or imperialistically doing things to others, it is about empowerment. You want solutions to all problems which have no military dimension. This is not possible with brutal dictatorships like the Assad regime.

      I engaged with the chaos in Libya after the uprising and the limited support from the West. I explained what was done, and what should have been done.

      You say “Likewise the forces the U.S. would be backing will not necessarily replace the Assad government with democracy as we can see with some of the brutal authoritarianism in some of the rebel held areas.” This is why we need progressives to expose and campaign for an alternative partnership approach, rather than blanket rejection of any “intervention”.

      The “if only” you mention is about “if only” the West had given the Libyan Opposition the resources to enable them to create a cohesive force. Partnership is about empowering others. You are right about the problems of reconstructing governments, especially in an environment of hostile Sunni authoritarian regimes pushing spoilers; but you underestimate the agency of the people of the MENA.

      On Bassam Haddad, beware of too narrow sources. Idrees Ahmad has this to say on BH, “How sad that the day Russia/regime commit a major massacre in Syria, Democracy Now! invites an ideologue to equivocate and obfuscate. Just when we thought that DN [Democracy Now] was moving away from Assad apologists and giving Syrians a voice, we get this torrent of drivel from a hack best known for his flatulent prose and morally flaccid posturing.” See Muftah Org website “Responding to Bassam Haddad’s False Binary on Syria” for a demolition of BH narrative.

      On the polls quoted. ORB poll article includes “There must be US and Russian pressure on Bashar al-Assad to compromise, to step down, then it would be possible to reach a solution.” – Male 18-35 from Der ez Zor, Syria. Refugees poll “Of those who responded, 71 percent agreed that an ‘end to the fighting in Syria’ would be ideal. Sixty-five percent of respondents agreed that removal of the Assad regime would be an ideal ending.” Is this sample who reach Turkey representative of Syrians or even Syrian refugees, as 90% causalities caused by Assad and Putin regimes.

  • Thomas Paul Frazier

    Please DO NOT send requests for money, contributions, my first born child‼️ I have greatly destroyed my budget for this election cycle‼️ It is well past the point of tolerating the begging or guilt tripping that has evolved into strong arming and coercing me to send money‼️? There is nothing but the squeal left of the piggy bank to give to anyone that asks for money‼️?? I hope that I have made myself clear and concise about THIS subject‼️ Thank you again‼️

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