War in Syria?

From the New York Times:

DAMASCUS, Syria — The political crisis in Syria deepened Monday as Syrian forces in the restive southern city of Dara’a fired live ammunition in the air to disperse hundreds of pro-democracy protesters who had taken to the streets.

The marchers gathered in the city’s main square, chanting “Not Sunnis, not Alawis, we all want freedom,” and “God, Syria and freedom only.” By late afternoon, hundreds of protesters had staged a sit-in on the square, uncertain whether the army would try to disperse them during the night. More than sixty people have been killed in recent protests in the city, human rights groups say; it was unclear whether there were any casualties on Monday.

By intervening in Libya, the Obama administration has set a very low standard for war (Defense Secretary Robert Gates admitted that Libya “was not a vital national interest to the United States”). Doubtless the conflict in Syria is more vital to American interests than that of Libya. Does this mean we should be sending troops to protect protesters in Syria? If so, how long do we wait? Much of the criticism of the UN intervention in Libya was that it came too late to be of much help to the rebel forces.

Both the US and UN have spoken out against the Syrian government’s treatment of its protesters:

In the US, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Washington was deeply concerned at what was happening in Syria.

“We strongly condemn the Syrian government’s attempts to repress and intimidate demonstrators,” Mr Carney said late on Friday.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon telephoned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to urge “maximum restraint”.

Mr Ban also stressed that Damascus had an obligation to respect the fundamental rights of its citizens.

A lack of intervention would amount to an inconsistent foreign policy on the part of both the United States and United Nations.

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