Saturday, December 17, 2016

Why Safe Zones are Moronic, Oxy and Otherwise

Ok, that might be a bit strong,* but that's my first reaction to this:
What is my problem with safe zones?  I have many problems:
  1. Safe zones became targets in Bosnia, so that the collection of displaced people made genocide easier--Srebrenica.
  2. Safe zones can be used by those we are helping to become bases for the opposition, which again makes them targets.
  3. Here is the big one: safe zones would require..... combat.  We might also call it war.  It would require the deployment of tens of thousands of soldiers to create spaces where the Syrian army cannot go AND where the Syrian artillery cannot fire.  How do you prevent Syrian artillery from firing into a safe zone?  Glad you asked.  Either by providing artillery that engages in counter-battery fire or by airstrikes.  How does that work if Russians happen to be near the Syrian artillery?  Are we prepared to kill Russians in order to create AND MAINTAIN safe zones.
  4. That last bit is key--it is not just enough to create a space, which again requires war or an agreement, but it needs to be maintained for how long?  
  5. Who will do this?  Who will send troops committed to fighting if necessary?  UNPROFOR did so very poorly in large part because the UN was unwilling to approve of the use of force AND countries that had sent troops were concerned about their troops becoming hostages.  So, who sends troops to Syria to create and maintain safe zones, including doing some significant combat?  The US?  Nice to volunteer the US to do this, but the last time the US intervened unilaterally in an Arab state, folks got upset.  The UN?  Nope, not with the Russians having a veto.  NATO?  It is already occupied with the Eastern Front, and many members are busy in Iraq.  Not a lot of spare capacity.  Turkey?  Oh sure, Turkey is easy to work with these days.  Arab countries?  Um, not great partners either. 
So, sure, Trump likes the phrase, but I am sure the US military is not nostalgic for the glory days of safe zones.  I am sure once General SecDef Mattis educates the new President, Trump's enthusiasm will go away.

Anyhow, hope is not a plan, edition 712.

* some credit to Doug Benson who refers to Safe House the movie as being neither Safe nor a House.


Steven Taylor said...

So, basically you are saying: "Hi, my name is Steve and, I a don't love Safe Zones"?

Steve Saideman said...

Pretty much.