Syrian military forces began shelling a residential neighborhood in Damascus this morning, capping off what has already proven to be a bloody weekend with hundreds being slaughtered in the city of Treimsa on Friday. In the wake of these, as well as all of the preceding atrocities, is it not time to consider multilateral military involvement in this country?
Opposition groups claim that the death toll has already topped 17,000, though journalists have had trouble independently verifying this number due to lack access to the country. Additionally, it is now known that the Syrian government has moved around some of its stockpiles of chemical weapons in response to the escalating situation. It is uncertain as to whether the weapons have been moved in an effort to safeguard them or to mobilize them for use against anti-government forces. But given the brutality displayed by the regime so far, it is hard to believe that their motives in this matter are totally altruistic.
With each passing day the lies told by the Syrian regime are exposed more and more, and revealed to be just that. The history of the ineffective wait and watch approach to international peacekeeping (see: Bosnia, Rawanda, Darfur) is repeating itself with the abject failure of Kofi Annan’s peace plan. Perhaps it is time that we take note of recent successes in the arena of multilateral intervention (Kosovo, Libya, Ivory Coast) and finally put an end to the horror playing out in Syria.
The recent incursion in Libya demonstrated how effective even a moderately well-organized and executed plan, with burdens shared across a spectrum of nations, can bring a relatively swift and, as compared to letting the opposing sides slug it out, painless end to an otherwise bloody internal conflict that would likely have ended with the bloodthirsty, murdering dictator as the winner. Granted, the situation in Libya had some advantages that made such a plan of action easier to carry out (i.e. a fairly unified opposition about whom much was known, a community of experienced and influential expatriates to guide the new democracy, etc). But with the violence escalating and the death toll rising, these shortcomings in the Syrian opposition are quickly losing credibility as an argument against intervention.
If now is not the time to strike, that time is fast approaching. What the international community afford to do is let it pass by.