Before Bombing Syria, Consider This
Published: August 30, 2013 (Issue # 1775)
There are eight main issues that the West should consider before bombing Syria:
1. What are the intervention goals?
All statements coming from Western leaders — particularly the U.S., Britain and France — suggest a narrow focus on chemical weapons rather than action designed to sway the overall trajectory of the conflict in Syria. Beyond a perceived sense of the need to "do something," the intention seems to be to send a signal on chemical weapons to deter further use in the Syria arena and reinforce a global norm alongside an apparent goal of restoring Western credibility. Washington, in particular, seems to have be convinced that if it takes no action on its own "red line" threat, it would be a sign of weakness and send a signal that it has replaced a gung-ho policy with a gun-shy one.
Less than 1 percent of casualties in Syria are even being attributed to chemical weapons claims. If there is a plan involving military action to reduce the suffering of Syrians and improve the situation, then presumably that would be aired irrespective of proof of chemical weapons use.
Nevertheless, any action will have consequences well beyond the chemical weapons issue, so any proposed action should also be measured against broader criteria of prospective implications for Syria and broader regional issues, including sectarian escalation, refugee flows and instability in Iraq and Lebanon, radicalization and diplomacy with Iran.
2. The chemical weapons dilemma
The West will try to influence the military balance in Syria if there is a strike, but there is a danger that the options under consideration could make the situation worse in Syria, in the region and for the prospects of crisis management diplomacy.
If chemical weapons have been used in Syria, preventing its further use doesn't suggest that Syrian casualties will be reduced, given that at least 99 percent of deaths are not attributable to chemical weapons.
3. The problem with evidence
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