There is a lot of loose talk on intervention in Syria. Various commentators, government officials – former and current, and analysts are calling for some sort of US military involvement in the blooming civil war between the Alawite Assad regime and the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Recommendations range from arming the opposition to providing special operations and air support. Many of their arguments make a compelling moral case for intervention. Some even provide an operational framework for what military support for the FSA might look like. The trouble is, very few advocates of intervention have taken the time to:
(a) Provide a strategic rationale for intervention based on US interests,
(b) Identify what circumstances would merit a commitment that would place American military lives at risk,
(c) Explain the criteria for disengagement if the conflict endures beyond our expectations,
(d) Explain how the likely alternatives to Assad will be better for the United States.
(e) Explain what success looks like and what comes next .
Important questions like these were laid out in 1995 when Col. John Collins (ret.) penned a useful tool for policymakers and military planners for Parameters called “Military Intervention: A Checklist of Key Considerations.” It proposes a list of key considerations and questions for whether, where, when, and how the US should or should not intervene militarily. My proposition is it would be irresponsible to commit American blood and treasure without ticking every box on Col. Collins’ checklist.
This blog originally appeared the Center for National Policy’s ‘Security Center’ blog, to read it in its entirety, please click here.