What Sir William Would Do in Syria
The use of nerve gas in Syria is abhorrent, and those within the Syrian military command who ordered it are war criminals. But it is folly to think that airstrikes can be limited: they are ill-conceived as punishment, fail to protect civilians and, most important, hinder peacemaking.
The use of chemical weapons should be punished. No country should remain neutral when human beings are gassed. This is one thing on which the United States, Russia and Iran can agree. But the most convincing punishment would come through an international war crimes tribunal outside Syria.
Syrian civilians deserve protection from murder, but bombing won’t deliver it. Efforts to protect civilians through military action have a checkered history that reveals a fundamental truth: their success depends on whether they reinforce a political plan. From the creation of safe havens for Kurds in northern Iraq in 1991 to the campaign that ousted Muammar el-Qaddafi in Libya in 2011, effective interventions support diplomacy; they don’t replace it.
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