The Body Count Foreign Policy: Civilian Casualties in Syria Force U.S. Hand?

BY Glen Tschirgi
1 year, 10 months ago

Here we go again.

In this article, we are told that the U.S. is now warning Syria of possible military action.

Is it because the U.S. has finally determined that Syria’s support of terrorist outfits like Hamas and Hezbollah is inimical to vital U.S. interests and pose a threat to national security?  Is it because the Assad Regime is the linchpin to Iranian aggression in the Levant?  Is it because the stockpile of biological weapons may find their way into the hands of Islamists to be used against Western targets?  Has the U.S. determined that the replacement of the Assad Regime by an even tepidly pro-Western government would be a game changer in the Middle East?

No.

It is because something like 100 non-combatant civilians were killed by artillery and tank rounds fired indiscriminately by Assad’s forces into the Syrian city of Houla.

I do not for a moment condone this rightly-termed massacre of women and children by the Assad Regime.  It deserves all of the condemnation that can be delivered (although it is somewhat hypocritical of the Russians– who used an absolute, scorched-earth assault to suppress rebellion in Chechnya including artillery barrages– and China– which routinely tortures and kills its civilian population).

Nontheless, as I argued in a prior post :

U.S. foreign policy cannot be dictated by logarithms of civilian casualties.   Instead, the U.S. must enter into a complicated calculus of risks and benefits in seeking to topple Assad and the methods necessary and appropriate to the task.

Unfortunately, the Obama Administration seems to be engaging in this very type of body-count calculus in weighing military intervention.   From The Guardian article:

The US’s top military officer has warned Syria it could face armed intervention as international outrage grows over the massacre of women and children by tanks and artillery in Houla.

General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said that following the UN security council’s condemnation of the slaughter – in which more than 100 people were killed, many of them children – there needed to be increased diplomatic pressure on Damascus. But he added that the US would be prepared to act militarily if it was “asked to do so”.

“There is always a military option,” he told Fox News. “You’ll always find military leaders to be somewhat cautious about the use of force, because we’re never entirely sure what comes out on the other side. But that said, it may come to a point with Syria because of the atrocities.”

The entire world is filled with governments committing atrocities against its own people, and all too often on a scale far larger than the massacre at Houla.   Sudan and its Islamist allies have been slaughtering and enslaving tens of thousands of largely Christian South Sudanese civilians for the better part of a decade.   U.S. response (both Bush and Obama):  Yawwwwwwwwwwwwwn.  North Korea’s forced starvation and Nazi-like concentration camps are legendary and indisputable.   U.S. response for 50 years:  too bored to bother.

Why should civilian deaths in Syria trigger any kind of threat of military action?  Determining foreign policy based on civilian body counts like this is absolutely bass ackwards.

If intervening in Syria is in the U.S. national interest, including all the factors that must be weighed and considered– and can be articulated as such to Congress– then that is all the reason we need.   If it is not in the national interest, then no body count should precipitate military action.


You are currently reading "The Body Count Foreign Policy: Civilian Casualties in Syria Force U.S. Hand?", entry #8559 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Force Projection,Foreign Policy,Syria and was published May 29th, 2012 by Glen Tschirgi.

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