Libya’s Lessons on Syria
Teaming up with Karim Mezran and Haley Cook, I waded into the Syria debate that is on everyone’s mind with an article in FP about what lessons can be drawn from the multilateral Libya intervention that could be useful for formulating a plan in Syria. This delicate holding period while Obama is waiting for the Congressional vote is critical for Pentagon and White House planners to figure out exactly what their entrance and exit strategies are in Syria. Failure to define the long term objective could lead to another failed or lacklustre intervention.
Boxed into a corner by U.S. President Barack Obama’s “red line” that the Assad regime has crossed with its apparent use of chemical weapons on August 21, the United States finds itself on the verge of intervening militarily in Syria’s increasingly brutal and complex civil war.
Whatever the United States and its allies decide to do in Syria, scant attention has been paid to the few important lessons that can be drawn from the multilateral intervention in Libya two years ago. Libya teaches us three things: 1) any intervention has to have a clear political strategy defining the mission’s objectives as well as plans to counteract the undesirable but foreseeable consequences that are natural byproducts of any intervention 2) limited intervention — like the kind under consideration for Syria –could have very dangerous consequences, potentially more dangerous than a less limited intervention 3) the political legitimacy conferred by Arab and regional powers, such as Turkey or Qatar, is essential for the success and public relations aspect of the intervention, but also creates its own difficulties which must be actively counteracted.
Read the rest here.