Al-Assad should be bombed soon – and hard

Al-Assad should be bombed soon – and hard

The top item on the global agenda these days is whether the United States should carry out an aerial attack on the mass-murdering regime of Bashar al-Assad, the tyrant of Syria. President Barack Obama, with his usual sophistication that often does not equal decisiveness, is reluctant. And there are many voices, elsewhere in the world as here in Turkey, that passionately oppose “war,” and loudly cheer for “peace.”

Let me begin with the latter: the “anti-war” crowd. What its proponents are missing is that there has already been a horrible war going on in Syria since early 2011. All prospects for an attack on the al-Assad regime include the hope of ending that war by help bringing its main culprit, the regime, to its knees. This is a regime that is firstly responsible for mass torture and the murder of peaceful protesters, a brutality that is the very reason that turned initially peaceful resistance into an armed rebellion. Then the regime attacked not just the rebels, but also all the civilians allied with them, cold-bloodedly slaughtering thousands of women and children. In the latest attack, al-Assad also used chemical weapons on the outskirts of Damascus, killing more than 1,400 innocent people. (As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry noted, the regime’s refusal to let the U.N.’s team of inspectors visit the poison-gas sites for five days after the attack was in fact an admission of guilt.)

Such a murderous regime will not stop its carnage unless it is stopped by force. If this was possible before, it no longer is. Even al-Assad himself made this very clear in a recent interview he gave to the French Le Figaro. “The only way to deal with [the rebels],” he said, “is to annihilate them.”

It is a fact, for sure, that the rebels in question include fanatic militants, such as the al- Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, which has also committed horrors, and should be a concern for all those who want a peaceful and pluralist Syria. However, the very reason why such Sunni extremists flocked to Syria and proliferated there is that the West has done almost nothing to protect the Sunni majority that al-Assad has kept on slaughtering. Continuing the hands-off policy will not help anything. It will only make the matters worse. 

Other “anti-war” arguments, such as the parallelisms drawn with Iraq 2003, are also wrong. In 2003, a belligerent and arrogant U.S. occupied a tyrannical yet still peaceful Iraq. Now, Syria is already soaked in blood, and nobody is even contemplating a ground invasion. If any parallelisms can be drawn, they should be with NATO’s aerial bombardments in Bosnia (1995), Kosovo (1999) and Libya (2011). Though circumstances are not entirely the same, in all such cases, the “war” that the “anti-war” activists condemned only helped end, minimize or prevent genocides and crimes against humanity.

That is why I have long been calling for an aerial bombardment on the military and intelligence strongholds of the al-Assad regime, as advocated by figures such as U.S. Senator John McCain. Only with such a strong international response to their horrors, can al-Assad and his thugs understand that they cannot kill their disobedient citizens as they please while violating international norms. I am ultimately for peace, to be sure, but a political solution which will bring us to peace can’t come without military intervention. Only with a limited yet effective war against the Syrian regime, might we begin to hope for peace.