Tuesday, November 10, 2015

When to Intervene

One of the biggest issues in U.S. foreign policy is deciding when to get involved and following through with that promise. As explained in Chapter 7 of Richard Weitz’s Project on National Security Reform: Case Studies Working Group Report, there is plenty of evidence supporting the claim that the 1994 Rwandan genocide would occur. The U.S. government initially underwent a period of analytical and legal denial that delayed any progress and interagency movement was slow at best. The fast pace that the genocide was occurring overwhelmed a slow-moving bureaucracy. President Bill Clinton later established the Presidential Decision Directive 25 (PDD25) as a decision-maker in deciding whether to vote for new United Nations missions or not. The questions raised by PDD25 focused the United States to consider if:
1         .     UN involvement advances U.S. interests
2         .     There is threat or breach of international peace and security
3         .     There are clear objectives
4         .     There are means to accomplish the mission
5         .     The operation’s anticipated duration is tied to clear objectives and realistic criteria
This same criteria needs to be adapted in determining if and when to intervene in Syria. It is reported that rebel groups use mustard gas against innocent populations in addition to Bashar al-Assad’s abuse of his own people. As atrocities continue, the U.S. considers how and when to intervene based on the five considerations listed above. There obviously has been a breach of international peace; therefore, the means to accomplish the mission, duration of the mission, and clear objectives need to be considered. One option includes adopting President Vladimir Putin’s policy of temporarily supporting Assad to allow for a peaceful transition to an elected successor, while putting an end to a large amount of conflict. This option would cease fighting against Assad, ease tensions with Russia, and work towards the long-term mission of a regime change. The initial U.S. position of demanding Assad to be removed from power has not made any progress and led to the rise of ISIS. Additionally, U.S. strategy to train and arm “moderate” rebels of the Free Syrian Army did not returned any positive results, which garners support for a new stance on Syria. As the clear objective remains to put an end to conflict and eventually transition to an elected official, the answer may not be to let Russia take the reign, but it must include a change in U.S. tactics. The U.S. clearly has interests in the stability of the Middle East and peace has not existed in Syria for quite a long time. The United States may have to lose a few battles to win the war.

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