Wednesday, March 27, 2013

How Syria Is Unlike Libya

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that NATO is unlikely to intervene in Syria.  He argued that the differences between the two include:
"In Libya we took responsibility for the operation based on a United Nations mandate to protect the Libyan population against attacks from its own government...and we had active support from the countries in the region," he said.
"None of these conditions are fulfilled in Syria, there is no United Nations mandate, there is no call on NATO to intervene in Syria, even the opposition in Syria does not ask for a foreign military intervention," he said.
Of course, the lack of a UN mandate did not stop NATO when it came to Kosovo, and I am sure there are opposition folks who would like a foreign military intervention.

What else is different?  I can think of three:
  • Syria is not producing the same kind of threat of refugees to Western Europe that Libya did.  No folks washing up on Italian and French shores to motivate those that fear the rise of xenophobia.
  • Austerity, austerity, austerity.  The easiest way to cut budgets is not to spend on new operations.  These things get very expensive, especially if boots on the ground might be necessary.  Given the chemical weapons in Syria, more boots would be necessary than in Libya (a few SOF boots/sneakers). Hollande is proposing to cut the French military quite severely.  Sarkozy, he is not.
  • Syria is after. Folks learn and adjust.  Not all learning leads to more.  Sometimes learning leads to less.  Libya has had a variety of consequences that some folks might want to avoid--Mali, Benghazi, etc.
So, these are both fruit, apples and oranges that are highly comparable, but we ought not to expect same old, same old NATO intervention.  Countries discriminate in international relations, they really do.

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