Outside View: Game book

By MORGAN STRONG, UPI Outside View Commentator  |  June 21, 2012 at 6:30 AM
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BRICK, N.J., June 21 (UPI) -- Take A few steps back, allow a few months to pass, and Syria becomes Libya.

A contrivance of elegant subtlety, Syria President Bashar Assad has blundered into the same trap a Moammar Gadhafi.

We, the United States and our Western allies, are preparing the final end for Assad. He might yet suffer the same ignominious death as Gadhafi -- shot it the head, covered in filth, cowering in a sewer. Or he may take his billions and decamp to Iran. Iran is the only place on Earth that would shelter Assad and his henchmen.

Assad did what Gadhafi did in Libya; he cannot comprehend the desperation of the people of Syria or their willingness to sacrifice their lives for freedom. In response to his surprise the Syrian people are suffering the same brutal repression for their courage as did the people of Libya.

We, the United States, and our allies have waited until courage took root, manifest and spread among the Syrian people over these many months. We waited while unbearable sacrifice was made so that we could be certain that our interference, our assistance, would be rewarded.

There had to be significant opposition against Assad and Assad had to respond with the barbarity and ruthlessness we knew he was capable of so plans to rid the world of him could proceed.

Now, as was the case in Libya there can be a coalition hammered together to oblige the necessary military intervention, by NATO perhaps, or maybe with an alliance of the United States.

The composition of the nation's forming the military apparatus is irrelevant, that there will be intervention by the West to support the Syrian people's dreams for freedom and democracy however is a certainty.

The difficulty was allowing Assad to engage in his ruthless attempts to suppress the people. There must be a definitive psychological pattern for ruthless dictators that describe how they will act in all given sets of circumstances. Assad did exactly what Gadhafi did; he resorted to the most barbarous, inhuman behavior imaginable to hold power. He slaughtered his own people with complete disregard for common decency or compassion.

Now is the time to act against the Assad dictatorship but it isn't certain that we will.

Now it is our turn to display courage. We overlook the simple impediment of an election year that can thwart the most obvious of solutions for the most heinous of crimes.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has charged Russia with supplying Assad with heavy weapons, including attack helicopters to suppress the revolution. Clinton has upped the stakes considerably with these charges.

We now have a responsibility to come to the aid of the revolutionaries with comparable equipment if we are to allow the revolution to succeed. There isn't yet talk of NATO intervention. France has taken the lead in Syria as it did in the Libya revolution.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called for the implementation of the United Nations-sanctioned Kofi Annan peace plan with the no-fly zone as an option. More or less what transpired in Libya.

Without Assad's forces able to use the Russian helicopters that gives the revolutionaries a slight advantage, or at least parity.

The no-fly zone should be imposed now. We cannot, and should not wait as we did in Libya until hundreds of innocent men, women and children are slaughtered by these hideous weapons.

We have seen the evidence of Assad's use of these weapons; we need no other reason to stop him from using them.

The United Nations however proceeds with a caution that is thoroughly self-serving. Careers are considered, political fortunes are assessed, reputations are at risk. None of this should matter now that the evidence is presented and the appalling consequence of the use of these weapons is made clear.

The United Nations has latitude to employ military force as it did in Libya but the process is painfully incremental. One set of circumstances met, will qualify for consideration of another more serious response, and on and on, until the plateau is reached for the employment of force. Again as in Libya the wait only ensured greater carnage among the innocent. We cannot endure another failure to come to the aid of the people responsibly as we did in Libya.

U.S. President Barack Obama isn't waiting it seems and may be showing a firm resolve he is accused of not having by his presumptive opponent Mitt Romney. He has ordered that the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force accelerate plans that would aid in the ousting of Assad.

What that can mean is unclear. There is the distinct possibility that U.S. forces could see action. How they would be employed is unknown. They could supply weapons, tactical advice, intelligence, even insert teams of advisers into the country as they did secretly into Libya.

Obama has taken a risk in ordering our forces to become involved even at such a preliminary level. He will no doubt be accused of having a political motive in demonstrating his commitment to help the abused people of Syria.

Romney will no doubt claim Obama's motives to be suspect, ill conceived, rash and political theater. Although committing our resources in the hope of sparing the lives of the Syrian people can merit no genuine objection.

Obama has the obligation to use our forces to rid the world of Assad as he used our forces to rid the world of Osama bin Laden.

We must hope and pray that Obama has the courage to see this through and commit our forces to the removal of Assad. He doesn't lack the support of the international community. The president should now support his secretary of State and implement a no-fly zone to take effect as quickly as is possible.

We have American resources in the immediate area from which planes could be launched to destroy these dreadful killing machines.


(Morgan Strong is a former professor of Middle Eastern History, and was an adviser to CBS News' "60 Minutes" on the Middle East.)


(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

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