The media turns.

The Times follows The Independent on Sunday tomorrow with a bold front page:

From the Leader (£):

Houla is the tipping point in Syria. There should be no further period of inaction, of standing by and watching murder and mayhem inflicted on innocents… [We] should investigate, without delay, the practicability of establishing safe havens on the border of Syria, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, where civilians and opponents of the regime will be guaranteed protection from regime forces. These safe havens may require commitment of troops, artillery and air defences. The use of drones for surveillance over civilian areas should be examined. And if necessary the arming of rebels to enable them to resist the regime forces and to protect their own people should be contemplated, and soon… [W]hat kind of country would Britain be, and what kind of people would young Syrians take us for, if we allowed the slaughter to continue? President Assad should know that the period of “do nothing” is over.

Philip Gourevitch follows up his Comment piece in The New Yorker:

Today, CNN reported another incident of Afghan schoolgirl poisoning: this time, a hundred and sixty students were hospitalized. Should we send NATO to the rescue? It’s too late. NATO has been there for more than a decade, and last week, in Chicago, its leaders declared its plan to withdraw from Afghanistan “irreversible.” What makes anyone think that we can protect Syrian children better?

More posts on Syria today here and here.


2 thoughts on “The media turns.

  1. the press approach really hasn’t matured in the slightest since iraq – describing Houla as a “tipping point” is incredibly solipsistic, given that it’s not the first massacre of civilians or even the first to be reliable reported; it’s a tipping point only in the sense of the Times’ editorial line. then there’s the bloody typical “if we allowed the slaughter to continue” canard, portraying the situation as a binary immoral inaction/moral resolution choice.

    then there’s the inaccuracy of their suggestions at a tactical level:

    1. the use of drones for surveillance doesn’t even need to be “examined”, it simply wouldn’t happen. according to US protocols, drones are only used when airspace has been deemed safe by other platforms; they’re not used in military-contested areas (see – which is why, in Libya, drones were only deployed after several months of strikes by manned aircraft. thanks in part to its purchases from Russia, the Assad regime far has more sophisticated anti-air capability than Gaddafi did, which means that significant intervention – likely even on the ground – would be necessary before aircraft, manned or otherwise, could operate in Syrian airspace w/ the same relative impunity they did over Libya. furthermore much of the weaponry used by Assad’s forces against civilians, such as artillery which can be fired from inside houses (, would be difficult to target or even identify from the air. the Times’ suggestions, therefore, reveal a refusal to adequately examine or understand the tactical reality of the situation.

    2. as for creating safe havens, several of the countries mentioned are (justifiably) reticent – Turkey is wary of empowering Kurdish militants (; Lebanon was itself thrown into disarray by the recent death of an anti-Assad cleric ( then there’s the possibility that foreign intervention would cause Iran to step up their support of Assad.

    3. the “arming of rebels” wouldn’t necessarily be effective either. there’s no clear single faction to back – e.g. the Free Syrian Army has, I believe, distanced itself from the Syrian National Council – and Assad’s armed forces are in possession of hardware – tanks, heavy artillery, air support – that couldn’t be countered simply by funnelling small arms across the border to their opponents. the rebels are outnumbered & outgunned to a far greater extent than in Libya, an asymmetry that would be difficult to resolve w/o supplying them w/ tanks & the like; the need to bring these into the country and ensure that they can be operated by rebel forces would add another layer of complexity, expense & risk to the equation.

    in short, the admirable efficiency & apparent success of limited Western intervention in Libya seems to have led many pundits to believe in a similar cause-effect possibility in Syria, which is not the case. at this juncture, any reasonable attempt at intervention would consist of putting boots on the ground w/ no clear path to victory or exit strategy, an endeavor we should strive to avoid given the events of the past decade.

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