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America's Best Options in Syria

Author: Gregory D. Koblentz
May 7, 2013
Atlantic Monthly

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President Obama has repeatedly declared that the use of chemical weapons by Syria in its fight against rebel forces would be a "game changer." But he's refused to elaborate on what that means. At an April 30 press conference, President Obama stated that, "By 'game changer,' I mean that we would have to rethink the range of options that are available to us...that means that there's some options that we might not otherwise exercise that we would ... strongly consider." The prospect of direct U.S. military intervention in the conflict in Syria in the near-term remains unlikely. Multiple public opinion polls show that a majority of Americans oppose intervening in the Syrian civil war. The evidence regarding Syrian use of chemical weapons remains weak. Nonetheless, it is worth considering what policies the United States could pursue, short of dropping bombs or putting boots on the ground, to "change the game" in Syria if the use of chemical weapons is confirmed. Here are three options the United States could pursue: arm the rebels, impose UN sanctions on Syria, and charge Assad with war crimes.

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