Mark N. Katz: It's Time to Act in Syria

Roundup: Media's Take

Mark N. Katz is a professor of government and politics at George Mason University, and is the author of Leaving without Losing: The War on Terror after Iraq and Afghanistan (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012).

The conflict in Syria now appears to be in stalemate; the Assad regime is unable to repress its opponents, but the Syrian opposition is also unable to overthrow the Assad regime. The conflict, then, rages on with no end in sight.

After experiencing the enormous costs and meager rewards of intervening in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is understandable why the U.S. and many of its allies are wary of intervening now in Syria. Nor does their successful intervention in Libya last year incline them to do so in Syria now, since a) the Libyan operation took much longer and was much costlier than they anticipated, and b) toppling Assad appears likely to be a far more formidable task than toppling Qaddafi.

Not intervening in Syria, though, has serious costs as well. The indefinite continuation of the conflict there not only means continued suffering for the Syrian people, but also for neighboring states that are partners with the West. Turkey and Jordan are having difficulty dealing with refugee flows from Syria -- which will only continue so long as the conflict continues. Little Lebanon not only risks being swamped by refugees, but the inter-communal conflict in Syria exacerbating its own inter-communal tensions. In addition, continued turmoil in Syria is going to have a negative impact on Israel at some point....

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