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U.S. intervention in Syria can’t wait

Published: Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, April 3, 2012 00:04

It has inexplicably taken until now, as the Syrian opposition’s death toll surges toward 10,000 and more than a year has passed since Bashar al-Assad’s government resorted to unrestricted violence to put down a previously peaceful uprising, for tangible assistance to be provided to the Syrian resistance movement by the Western world.

But even this week’s granting of “non-lethal aid” — primarily medical supplies with some communications equipment, according to the New York Times — by the U.S. and Turkey is nowhere near enough.

The opposition Syrian National Council and Free Army have persistently requested a no-fly zone, such as the one that was implemented over Libya with overwhelming success. They assert that Western air control would immediately enable the safe defection of tens of thousands of Assad’s soldiers.

Offensive military options are not the only weapons being used by the Syrian government. Assad’s army recently planted tens of thousands of landmines along the border with Turkey, according to CNN, viciously blocking a major escape route for refugees fleeing the bloodbath.

Turkish leaders have suggested that their military may establish a “buffer zone” on the Syrian side of the border to generate shielded refugee escape routes, but they refuse to do so without international security support to defend against probable attacks from Assad’s forces.

This is the closest any capable nation has come to firmly considering a viable plan for effective aid. If Turkey continues to refuse to intervene without foreign security forces, then the international community is morally obligated to provide them, even if it’s only in the form of U.N. peacekeeping troops.

The U.S. and all Western powers have major strategic interests in endorsing these two reasonable intervention options. It’s an understatement to say that the U.S. is in painful need of strong allies in the region.

The longer the Syrian people are massacred, the further the opposition may be pushed to extremist tactics and ideals to achieve their victory. The last thing Washington needs is an extremist-sympathetic or worse, radicalized Syrian government grudgingly bitter about the U.S.’s lack of support in their revolution.

Assad will ultimately fall, but the longer he remains in power, the higher the bodies of innocents will pile. The implementation of a no-fly zone and the enforcement of civilian escape corridors are the moment’s most logical potential courses of action. But whatever is done, the ultimate aim must remain restricting Assad’s forces’ capabilities of slaughter.

Jared Szuba is a student at the University of Michigan.

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