Debate Club

How Many Syrians Must Die before a U.S. Intervention?

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Many Washingtonians claim that Syrian dictator Bashar Assad has been thrown back against the ropes, boxed in by international sanctions, and growing hordes of protesters whom he cannot contain, no matter how brutally he cracks down on them.

In truth, Assad is hardly alone. Iran and Hezbollah have stood by his side from the first moment, providing intelligence, and by some accounts weapons and other assistance to the loyalist forces. More recently, China and Russia have drawn a line in the sand, refusing to acquiesce to the demise of Assad's regime, exercising their respective vetoes at the United Nations Security Council.

Western officials remain conflicted about the possibility of intervention, considering it publicly at NATO and other institutions, while dismissing it wholly at press conferences.

[See pictures of the crackdown in Syria.]

Ultimately, Western powers have no choice but to intervene. Until outside forces compel them to stop, the Assads will continue their murderous rampage with utter impunity. Negotiations have failed, sanctions have failed. The United States has closed its embassy in Damascus, ending whatever diplomatic leverage Washington maintained there.

As Syrian activists are broadcasting on YouTube for all the world to see, the massacres continue unabated. President Obama has described the indiscriminate bombardment of the city of Homs as "outrageous bloodshed," but it is much more. The Assads are carrying out a virtual genocide there. Any day now, the rural Damascus town of Zabadani, which borders Lebanon and has been liberated by local rebels for weeks, will witness a similar onslaught. Some 5,000 loyalist troops equipped with 50 tanks and dozens of howitzers are already inching their way there.

If the geopolitical payoffs of regime change in Syria—further isolating Iran, weakening Hezbollah and removing a regime that has played an active role in supporting terrorist activities throughout the region and the world—are not enough to sway President Obama, perhaps this obvious humanitarian angle can seal the deal.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the turmoil in the Middle East.]

Last week, the Foundation for Defense Democracy hosted a Skype video conference for members of the American media and policy establishment in Washington, and rebel leaders in the protest hubs of rural Damascus, who sent a clear message to President Obama: we want American intervention.

The Syrian dissident fighters did not demand boots on the ground, but underscored the need for safe havens along Syria's borders with Turkey and Jordan and the establishment of humanitarian corridors to provide support for protesters and those caught in the crossfire.

The dissidents also demanded international recognition of the Free Syrian Army which, they believe, can protect communities from assault by regime loyalists once it gains access to equipment that can defend it against the tanks and artillery of Assad's modern, mechanized army.

Assad's tanks and howitzers are still rolling, but no one expects him to last in power. How many civilians does Obama wish to see die before the regime's collapse?

Ammar Abdulhamid

About Ammar Abdulhamid Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies

Tags
Syria
Mideast peace

Other Arguments

#1
200 Pts
Too Many Obstacles Stand in the Way of a Syrian Intervention

No – Too Many Obstacles Stand in the Way of a Syrian Intervention

Aaron David Miller Former Adviser to Republican and Democrat Secretaries of State

#2
137 Pts
A Syrian Intervention Need Not Be Military-Focused

No – A Syrian Intervention Need Not Be Military-Focused

Brian Katulis Senior Fellow at Center for American Progress

#3
68 Pts
U.S. Has Many Non-Military Options in Syria

No – U.S. Has Many Non-Military Options in Syria

Daniel J. Gallington Senior Policy and Program Adviser at the George C. Marshall Institute

#4
46 Pts
Case for Intervention in Syria Stronger than in Libya

Yes – Case for Intervention in Syria Stronger than in Libya

Jamie M. Fly Former Director for Counterproliferation Strategy at the National Security Council

#6
37 Pts
Intervening in Syria is Tough, but the Civilian Victims Deserve It

Yes – Intervening in Syria is Tough, but the Civilian Victims Deserve It

James Robbins Senior Fellow at the the American Foreign Policy Council

#7
-25 Pts
Syria is Trending Toward the Libya Model

Yes – Syria is Trending Toward the Libya Model

James Dobbins Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State

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