The following proposal was in an opinion piece in the NY Times. The author, Anne-Marie Slaughter, is described as "a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton, was director of policy planning at the State Department from 2009 to 2011," i.e., somebody who ought to know better than this:
FOREIGN military intervention in Syria offers the best hope for curtailing a long, bloody and destabilizing civil war. The mantra of those opposed to intervention is “Syria is not Libya.” In fact, Syria is far more strategically located than Libya, and a lengthy civil war there would be much more dangerous to our interests. America has a major stake in helping Syria’s neighbors stop the killing. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/24/op...yria.html?_r=2
Simply arming the opposition, in many ways the easiest option, would bring about exactly the scenario the world should fear most: a proxy war that would spill into Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Jordan and fracture Syria along sectarian lines. It could also allow Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups to gain a foothold in Syria and perhaps gain access to chemical and biological weapons.
There is an alternative. The Friends of Syria, some 70 countries scheduled to meet in Tunis today, should establish “no-kill zones” now to protect all Syrians regardless of creed, ethnicity or political allegiance. The Free Syrian Army, a growing force of defectors from the government’s army, would set up these no-kill zones near the Turkish, Lebanese and Jordanian borders. Each zone should be established as close to the border as possible to allow the creation of short humanitarian corridors for the Red Cross and other groups to bring food, water and medicine in and take wounded patients out. The zones would be managed by already active civilian committees.
Establishing these zones would require nations like Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Jordan to arm the opposition soldiers with anti-tank, countersniper and portable antiaircraft weapons. Special forces from countries like Qatar, Turkey and possibly Britain and France could offer tactical and strategic advice to the Free Syrian Army forces. Sending them in is logistically and politically feasible; some may be there already.
Crucially, these special forces would control the flow of intelligence regarding the government’s troop movements and lines of communication to allow opposition troops to cordon off population centers and rid them of snipers. Once Syrian government forces were killed, captured or allowed to defect without reprisal, attention would turn to defending and expanding the no-kill zones.
The stupidity of this is breathtaking. She opens with a denunciation of proxy wars, then presumes to spell out exactly the wrong way to fight one as her solution. "No-Kill" zones are safe havens for insurgents, and legitimate targets in wartime. Let us assume that the Sunni states that she invites to carve out safe havens for insurgents actually take her up on her suggestion. If so, then Syria would now be in a state of war with Turkey, Saudia Arabia, Jordan and Qatar. Protecting a faction in a civil war within the sovereign territory of that nation constitutes an act of war. Iran would not sit idly by while Sunni Arabs attack their ally, and they would respond with their own troops. Since Syria is separated from Iran by Iraq, Iran would need to move large formations of troops through Iraq in order to support Assad. They would also have to fight their way through the Suez Canal to land troops on the Syrian Mediterranean ports. Hezbollah would support Syria, while Hamas could go either way, but the odds are the the war will soon engulf every Muslim state in the region. Eventually, the side that wins would consolidate its victory, declare itself the supreme Islamic authority in the world and begin marshalling its forces for the next stage of the grand jihad.
The author of this piece doesn't understand that the best outcome for the world would be if both factions in Syria, the Alawite dictatorship and the Muslim Brotherhood-backed insurgents, lose. There are no white hats in Syria, there aren't even grey hats, just variations on black hats. Our goal ought to be to contain the war, but let it go on as long as possible, while carefully screening refugees in order to find potential intel assets that we can recruit and send back into the Middle East.