Russia and China will never agree to a no-fly zone because it is simply not in their political nature to do so, but when has the U.S. ever taken advice from Beijing or Moscow’s Vladimir Putin?
Instead, we should seek the support of partners such as France, the U.K., and most importantly, Turkey.
Second, the U.S. should establish “buffer zones” around Syria’s borders to serve as safe-havens for rebels and civilians. That would allow both vulnerable Syrians to escape execution and the rebels to regroup in their battle against their dictator.
Lastly, it is a contentious proposition, but the United States should support, and indeed pressure, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to fulfill their promises to arm the rebels. Assad’s military retains a powerful and strategic military advantage, and without the proper equipment, the rebels cannot compete. Granted, we ought to be very careful about who receives those weapons, but denying them altogether is unreasonable.
Many will argue that we do not know who the opposition really is. However, when has that prevented us from supporting groups, such as Libya’s rebels or France from supporting a little rebellion against a mighty empire? Rebellions and revolutions are always messy, and political dissidents encompass a broad range of individuals — sometimes even those who do not have good intentions.
Regardless, a proactive American response in the conflict will provide us with more legitimacy and voice in who precisely succeeds Assad when he falls. The tragedy of Syria might be that the entire world watched in silence as tens of thousands more Syrians unnecessarily lost their lives.
Here, the United States — as the world’s sole superpower — has a duty to break that silence. Indeed, we have a responsibility here at home to pressure both local and national leaders to break their shameful silence.
It is not our job to “save” Syria, but as citizens, we have a duty to show solidarity with those seeking the basic rights we tend to take for granted here at home.
Ultimately, Obama should not shy away from a responsible assertion of American power and influence. If he does, history will look back at the lack of American leadership with bafflement, dismay, and most importantly, regret.