This proposal was widely met with derision, particularly in the security community. But three months later, the United States has announced that it is providing intelligence and communication support to the FSA and openly countenancing the provision of arms by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Near the Jordan-Syria border, the U.S. military has just finished a massive military exercise with Jordan and 18 other countries. Ambassador Susan Rice told CNN's Wolf Blitzer Wednesday night that as a last resort "we," presumably meaning the Friends of Syria, must "look at options outside the U.N." Robert Baer, who spent more than two decades as a CIA case officer in the Middle East, said on another CNN program that it would be possible to use drones to take out tanks in Syria. And the Times of London came out in support of no-kill zones on its editorial page.
What is still missing is a plan. It is time to stand neither for the Syrian opposition nor against the Syrian government but against killing by either side. To tell any Syrian local officials willing to stand against killing -- whether a Local Coordinating Committee or simply a municipal government -- that they will receive weapons and air support against tanks, support that will be withdrawn if killing begins or continues, by anyone. All citizens of such towns should be instructed to photograph violence by anyone against anyone and upload it to a central website maintained by the U.N. or by the Friends of Syria, so that they become peace monitors.
Legally, the Friends of Syria can proceed without the U.N. Security Council's approval if the Arab League is willing to declare a threat to regional peace and security resulting from the ongoing violence in Syria. Given the current refugee situation and the clear potential for destabilization of neighboring countries, the league would be amply justified in doing so. Arab states are also entitled to ask for assistance from Turkey and any other countries. NATO could make the same move at Turkey's request, but need not do so for individual NATO members to assist the Arab League. International lawyers will debate the point, but Chapter VIII of the U.N. Charter governing regional arrangements arguably allows such action as long as the Arab League informs the Security Council of the measures it is taking for the maintenance of international peace and security.
Baer, the former CIA officer, also said on CNN that it was quite possible that the international community would not intervene in Syria until the level of killing reached Rwandan proportions. That is a horrific message to send both to the Syrian people and the Syrian government, not to mention similarly brutal governments around the world. Surely mass murder in the tens of thousands is enough for action, on both moral and strategic grounds. Many if not most readers will have objections to the plan proposed here. To them, I say: Either accept the status quo and recognize how much worse it is likely to get, or propose a plan of your own.