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Intervention in Syria: Three Things to Know

Speaker: Matthew C. Waxman, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Law and Foreign Policy, Council on Foreign Relations
May 10, 2013

Allegations that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against opposition fighters in recent weeks have led many policymakers to call for more assertive U.S. involvement in the country's ongoing civil war. Matthew C. Waxman, CFR adjunct senior fellow for law and foreign policy, highlights three things that the United States must consider in weighing intervention in Syria:

  • Ending atrocities: The United States has an interest in stopping atrocities and mitigating the humanitarian crisis in Syria, but must consider whether this can be done through relatively limited U.S. military action, such as air strikes or a no-fly zone, Waxman says. Meanwhile, Washington should also safeguard the rights and safety of the population in the event that the Assad regime collapses.
  • Maintaining credibility: If the United States fails to intervene in response to the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons--the Obama administration's "red line"--it could "signal a general lack of U.S. resolve," says Waxman. Engaging in "half measures" that fail to achieve U.S. objectives could similarly damage U.S. credibility, he argues.
  • Spillover effect: "The Syria crisis has implications for other critically important strategic challenges," including the ongoing U.S. conflict with al-Qaeda affiliates and Iran's controversial nuclear program, Waxman says.

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