Aryeh Neier Calls for Syria No-Fly Zone

by Kenneth Anderson

Aryeh Neier, recently retired president of the Open Society Institute (and former head of Human Rights Watch and the ACLU), has an opinion piece in Project Ricochet this week calling for a no-fly zone over Syria. He calls for it to be imposed by a regional force and NATO.  The US would not lead the effort, though presumably it would participate via NATO – while providing backup, both material and political, another exercise in deliberately “leading from behind.”  He is cautious about the US intervening militarily directly, and frames the dilemma this way:

There are many good reasons not to intervene militarily. For one thing, it would be impossible to do so under the auspices of the United Nations, owing to Russian and Chinese obstructionism in the Security Council. There is also America’s understandable reluctance to become involved in yet another war in an Islamic country, as well as the impossibility of knowing what kind of regime might emerge if and when Assad is overthrown.  Yet it also seems impossible to stand by while the daily bloodbath continues. The situation in Syria feels more and more like what we witnessed in Bosnia 20 years ago. Then, as now, the international community’s main response for an extended period was to provide humanitarian assistance to the conflict’s growing number of victims.

Interestingly, Neier argues that an important reason to establish a no-fly zone now against the regime and in favor of its victims (but also collaterally in favor of the rebels) is that

Assad’s loyalists, especially members of the minority Alawite sect, must fear that they would be massacred if his regime fell.  At some point, the international community may have to intervene to prevent or mitigate such a massacre. Its credibility in doing so, and therefore its likelihood of success, would be far greater if it were to intervene now to establish a no-fly zone to protect civilians in the opposition neighborhoods of Syria’s cities.

3 Responses

  1. How interesting. First, it is openly partisan — see “Yet, as long as Assad’s forces can attack opposition-controlled neighborhoods with helicopters and fixed-wing airplanes, the opposition’s ability to overthrow the regime with the arms that are now available to it seems questionable.” So one purpose of the no-fly zone is to proivde support to one side.

    Second, he does not suggest a legal basis.

  2. A NATO operation over a nation with an active Russian military base probably isn’t the smartest move. 

  3. Ian: I take this an example of the problem of Western liberal internationalists wanting it all ways.  I’ll try to post something up about this.

    However, despite my concerns that this kind of have cake, eat too policy leads to tears, personal loyalty to Aryeh precludes me from entertaining criticism.  After all, he quite deliberately introduced me to my Beloved Wife many years ago, at a sushi restaurant in NYC, and then suggested entirely poker faced that perhaps I should go spend some time with her for HRW in Guatemala, where she was covering the Guatemalan civil war. Events proceeded, I would say, all as Aryeh Neier has foreseen.

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