How can the United States and the international community best help Syrians in the face of its escalating horrors? The most popular recommendation in Washington circles is to provide more weaponry to the "moderate" parts of the Syrian opposition in order to help their military efforts against the Assad regime and to strengthen politically against the increasingly powerful jihadist trends in the opposition. I continue to believe that arming the rebels is unlikely to tip the military balance against Assad, bring the fighting to an end, create enduring influence with the Syriabn rebels, or crowd out the jihadists. As arms pour in and the fighting doesn’t end, this will almost certainly continue to dominate the international policy debate (Last week I hosted a roundtable to debate those points.)
But there should be more to the debate than only whether or not to arm the rebels. Given the scale of the humanitarian devastation and political stalemate, it’s entirely fair to ask what alternatives remain. On Friday, the Center for a New American Security released my new policy brief, Syria’s Hard Landing, which lays out a set of policy alternatives beyond arming the rebels. The main recommendations include a push at the U.N. for a massively increased cross-border humanitarian operation and for explicit integration of that aid with the construction of opposition-based alternative governance structures. My weekly column presenting those recommendations only made it online during the peak prime time of late Friday afternoon, though, because of the report’s production timeline.
With this post I therefore urge you to read my column, "Here’s Your Plan B: Arming rebels isn’t the only (or best) way to help Syria" and the Syria’s Hard Landing report upon which it is based. As always I look forward to feedback, and if I get enough productively critical responses I’ll publish another roundtable.