Can the outside world intervene to stop the slaughter in Syria?

Last March a few young Syrian boys— all under 17 — wrote on a wall in the farm town of Dara’a in southern Syria, a slogan that had appeared first in Tunisia, then quickly in Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, and Libya:  “The people want the regime to fall.”

The local governor threw the boys in jail, and so the Syrian revolution started.

Thirty years ago Syria’s brutal president, Hafez al-Assad, put down an anti-government demonstration in the city of Hama by killing 20,000-40,000 residents. His son and successor, Bashar al-Assad, appears to be made of the same stuff. His forces have killed 5,000-7,000* in towns all over Syria, and his killing machine seems to be gaining momentum.

The Arab League and the UN General Assembly have called for an end to the killing and for Assad to leave power. Assad’s answer has been to double down.

It’s anguishing to watch the newscasts or read about the slaughter of innocents and feel helpless to stop it. Until the past few weeks outside help was impossible: unlike Libya, where the rebels controlled large chunks of territory and could be supplied and aided easily, in Syria the opposition was scattered and controlled no territory.

Now that’s changing. CNN’s Ivan Watson is reporting that militants in northern Syria hold substantial territory near the Turkish border, and fear an onslaught against them if the government troops capture the city of Homs and move north.

It’s a crisis and an opportunity. If the outside world wants to help there’s a place and a force they can help. We may be days away from a consensus among neighbor Turkey, the Arab League, and NATO not to stand by and watch thousands more killed by their own government.

Fifty-six prominent members of America’s conservative foreign policy establishment have called on President Obama to directly aid the Syrian opposition and protect the lives of Syrian civilians. They wrote,

“Unless the United States takes the lead and acts, either individually or in concert with like-minded nations, thousands of additional Syrian civilians will likely die, and the emerging civil war in Syria will likely ignite wider instability in the Middle East.”

Calls for the administration to act are likely to increase in coming days. Politics and ethics may create irresistible pressure to intervene militarily.

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*The photo is of one of the dead, seven-year old Assil Anwar Jabr, daughter of two doctors in Daraa province, shot and killed last Saturday at a checkpoint in Dael when Assad’s forces opened fire at her mother’s car after they gave them permission to pass.

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2 Responses to “Can the outside world intervene to stop the slaughter in Syria?”

  1. Tom Stern Says:

    There is the ” loss of innocent life”,
    Any civilian/ non participant, who is
    Killed during a war and then there
    Is loss of life that is innocent- a child
    who neither participates nor even understands
    the concept of violent hate designed to
    Protect power.
    The look oh this young Syrian girl’s face suggests that she is such a casualty.
    Let us hope her eyes reach enough people
    to enlighten the world that collateral
    Damage is a myth and that destruction
    Perpetrated by totalitarian regimes is a
    Cancerous tumor that must be excised by
    the people of the world!!!!!!

  2. Jack Marshall Says:

    Beat me to this topic by juuuuuust this much, Bob; my depressing answer to your timely question was just posted.at Ethics Alarms.

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