How the U.S. Is Struggling to Help Syria’s Opposition

Can the United States save Syria?

Should the United States save Syria?

After the interventions in Egypt, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan, are the people in those nations better off than they were before?

What about us; are we better off?

According to this report from The Daily Beast, “Syrians are being massacred nearly every day, and sending out pitiable cries for help. The Obama administration is making its first moves to help, but it’s agonizing once again over the perils of intervention.”

“Danny Abdul Dayem, a British activist whose family is from Syria, showed a videographer around a makeshift clinic in Homs earlier this week. In the video, he is unshaven and scruffy, wearing a dark, padded jacket, and his voice is thick with emotion. ‘Look,’ he says, gesturing toward several men who are lying on the ground. ‘These are all dead bodies.’

“‘Come here,’ he says, leading the videographer into another room, where a man was being treated for his injuries. ‘We are not animals. We are human beings,’ Dayem says frantically to the person holding the video camera. ‘They’re going to kill us all. Please someone help us.’

“In Syria, American officials agree, the cost is too high—militarily, politically, and economically—for the U.S. to make such an investment. Yet, as Joshua Landis, a professor of Middle East studies at University of Oklahoma, points out, the officials who claim that the U.S. is not involved sound disingenuous. The United States has imposed economic sanctions. ‘Sanctions are a form of warfare,’ he adds. ‘Syrians will begin to starve soon.’

“Still, Landis, as well as U.S. military officials, believes that a U.S.-backed military operation is highly unlikely. ‘Syrian forces go in with their ground forces and cordon off neighborhoods and arrest people and shoot them,’ says an official who recently returned from Damascus but was not authorized to speak with a journalist. ‘You can’t defeat an arrest campaign with F-16’s. You’d have to go in on the ground. Do we have the funding-slash-political will to do this?’

“It is a wrenching moment, and American officials say they want to help people like Dayem. Privately, these officials say there is no difference between the situation in Libya, where President Barack Obama authorized air strikes, and the one in Syria, at least in terms of the human-rights calculus. In both cases, as Georgetown University’s Daniel L. Byman, says, ‘You have a despotic regime that’s slaughtering its own people.’

“More than 5,400 have died in the uprisings in Syria since last year, according to U.N. officials, who gave up tallying the number of dead several weeks ago because it was too hard to count the bodies. People around the world are clamoring for the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad or for some type of intervention, particularly now that Russian and Chinese officials have blocked efforts at the U.N. to stop the bloodshed.

For some, Libya is a shining example of U.S. intervention, but still does not support the argument for the same kind of operation in Syria. Americans helped save the citizens of Benghazi last year, and since then “we’ve moved from a despotic regime in Libya to a much more open society,” says Michael H. Posner, assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor, in a recent interview. But almost no one in Washington, aside from The New Republic’s Leon Wieseltier, supports a military intervention in Syria on the scale of the Libya operation.”

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