Why Libya? Why Not Syria?

  • #1
russ_watters
Mentor
19,716
6,063

Main Question or Discussion Point

I've been thinking about starting this thread for almost a week, as the intensity of the situation in Syria has been increasing. The silence from the world community regarding Syria is deafening. Hence, the question in the title....and from a CNN headline of a similar wording:
Why attack Libya and not Syria?

Two countries, two cases of extreme violence committed against citizens by their own government.

In one case, the Obama administration responds with military force. In the other, it doesn't.

Why?

The question has been raised in response to the radically different U.S. reactions to the bloodshed in Libya and Syria. More than 400 people have been killed in Syria over the past several weeks as Damascus has cracked down on protesters seeking reform, according to the Syrian Human Rights Information Link, a prominent human rights group.
http://www.cnn.com/2011/US/04/26/u.s..libya.syria/index.html?hpt=C1

In semi-fairness to Obama, he's not the only one ignoring Syria: the UN hasn't made a peep about the situation either.

So what's different?

1. Oil. Syria doesn't have any.
2. Despite the way it has been characterized internationally, Libya is a civil war whereas in Syria, the government is just killing civilians. From a moral standpoint that makes the situation in Syria worse, but from a practical standpoint, there isn't an opposition force for our military to support. In Libya, we say we're there to protect civilians, but we're not: we're there to support the opposition in the civil war.
3. Dissent or not, Syria is the center of the terrorist hornet's nest and the general Islamic extremist movement in the ME. So the anti-west reaction would be a lot worse if we were to intervene there.

Are these good reasons not to at least talk about it on the floor of the UN? IMO, no.
 
Last edited:

Answers and Replies

  • #2
18,201
7,810
Wouldn't you be going to war with Iran too? Syria and Iran seem to be super good buddies. You might even rope in a war with Hezbollah too.
 
  • #3
AlephZero
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
6,994
291
Two pragmatic reasons:

1. Syria is well connected in the Arab world. Libya isn't. Forget one-offs like Iran - the Arab League has come out in suppoit of the democratic reforms that the Syrian government is implementing in response to the will of the people. (You might not describe them that way, but the Arab League does ).

2. Syria has a serious military capability (again, unlike Libya), and in view of (1), it could presumably relocate its military assets into other Arab countries and defend itself from there.

According to today's BBC news, the general feeling in Europe is that there is zero chance of getting any UN mandate for military intervention, given the Arab League's position.
 
  • #4
russ_watters
Mentor
19,716
6,063
Wouldn't you be going to war with Iran too? Syria and Iran seem to be super good buddies. You might even rope in a war with Hezbollah too.
Yes, that's related to my point #3, though I wasn't specifically thinking about Iran. Libya is further from Israel both literally and figuratively.
 
  • #5
378
2
Two pragmatic reasons:

1. Syria is well connected in the Arab world. Libya isn't. Forget one-offs like Iran - the Arab League has come out in suppoit of the democratic reforms that the Syrian government is implementing in response to the will of the people. (You might not describe them that way, but the Arab League does ).

2. Syria has a serious military capability (again, unlike Libya), and in view of (1), it could presumably relocate its military assets into other Arab countries and defend itself from there.

According to today's BBC news, the general feeling in Europe is that there is zero chance of getting any UN mandate for military intervention, given the Arab League's position.
Yep, they are only looking forward for http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-13197277" [Broken].

1. Syria is well connected in the Arab world. Libya isn't. Forget one-offs like Iran - the Arab League has come out in suppoit of the democratic reforms that the Syrian government is implementing in response to the will of the people. (You might not describe them that way, but the Arab League does ).
I have always been in support of the current ruling government. I hope Syria government positions itself better in response to the newly emerging challenges, aiming for its long term sustainability.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • #6
100
1
syria may not have oil, but like the turks, they do run a pipeline business. we turn a blind eye to the turks' brutality all the time.
 
  • #7
arildno
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Gold Member
Dearly Missed
9,970
132
5. (or is it 4?). Timing of unrests.

We're already engaged in Libya, there is a heavy strain on Western economies, can we afford yet another costly military venture?
If the Syrian unrest had come before the Libyan, the situation might well have been reversed.

An undramatic, unconspiratorial explanation perhaps, but that I find have som force
in it.
 
  • #8
cobalt124
Gold Member
45
31
If the Syrian unrest had come before the Libyan, the situation might well have been reversed.
I still don't think we would have touched Syria. They have far more regional influence than Libya, and we only took action against Libya once we were sure they were isolated. Syria could not be isolated in the same way. They back Hezbollah, and are still technically at war with Israel.

As for the OP, I basically agree, not a lot can be done yet, a lot more harm would be done wading in on a moral principle.
 
  • #10
33
0
Reading the poster's views i cant help but wonder, why in the world should the United States interfere whether it is a Civil War situation or not? It is an extreme act of arrogance in my opinion. The United Nations has the responsibility to decide what steps should be taken and the fate of those decisions shouldn't in any way lie in the hands of Mr. Obama.
 
  • #11
russ_watters
Mentor
19,716
6,063
Fair enough. The article was written with the US being the Decider and my OP echoed it. But the basic question doesn't have anything to do with whoever makes the decision, but rather why the decision is made.

Realistically, such things typically only happen if the US makes them happen, but that's a discussion for another thread...
 
  • #12
CAC1001
Reading the poster's views i cant help but wonder, why in the world should the United States interfere whether it is a Civil War situation or not? It is an extreme act of arrogance in my opinion. The United Nations has the responsibility to decide what steps should be taken and the fate of those decisions shouldn't in any way lie in the hands of Mr. Obama.
Why not? The United States is the lead nation in the free world. And the UN is a good deal impotent because it is made up of quite a few nations that are major abusers of human rights. If the U.S. leads on something, oftentimes the rest of the free world at least will follow and lend support. Leadership doesn't necessarilly need to mean direct military intervention, but there are other options that can be pursued.
 
  • #13
33
0
Why not? The United States is the lead nation in the free world. And the UN is a good deal impotent because it is made up of quite a few nations that are major abusers of human rights. If the U.S. leads on something, oftentimes the rest of the free world at least will follow and lend support. Leadership doesn't necessarilly need to mean direct military intervention, but there are other options that can be pursued.

United States is not really itself the greatest proponent of civil rights, and even if the UN is impotent as you say, would you have appreciated say China having military forces in the United States if a Civil War broke out there? By the Same argument?

I think these are internal matters and don't reflect foreign matters rather significantly to require an external force manning that particular country. Each country has its own sovereignty and whether legally or illegally the United States on the basis of it being a "free liberal" country trying to have a say in internal matters isnt exactly liberal per say/
 
  • #14
172
1
I think these are internal matters and don't reflect foreign matters rather significantly to require an external force manning that particular country. Each country has its own sovereignty and whether legally or illegally the United States on the basis of it being a "free liberal" country trying to have a say in internal matters isnt exactly liberal per say/
While, strictly speaking, aerial bombardment of peaceful protesters is an internal matter, it is so disturbing to the rest of the world that they decided to intervene. Syria may be killing just as many people as Libya did, but they haven't done it in such an over-the-top manner to shock the rest of the world into action.

That's my guess, anyway.
 
  • #15
russ_watters
Mentor
19,716
6,063
United States is not really itself the greatest proponent of civil rights, and even if the UN is impotent as you say, would you have appreciated say China having military forces in the United States if a Civil War broke out there? By the Same argument?
You can't use the same argument because it isn't the same situation. The US wasn't wholesale bombing the civilian populations during the Civil War.

And lets not forget that another Eurpoean country (France) did intervene in the American Revolution - but not because of a humanitarian need, but rather due to them wanting to weaken Britain. At least in Libya, the US (whether it was The Decider or not) had broad international support and at least a partly altruistic motive.

You're complaining about two issues that are completely separate from each other now: Is this really about the US leading the charge or do you just not want anyone to get involved? You do know that it was a broad international force involved in Libya, right? Do you object to France intervening in Libya?
 
  • #16
33
0
I am opposed to any for of unilateral action against any other country without consensus. I understand ( tell me if i am wrong) that France has send forth NATO troops under the UN initiatives. Its not about the US leading the charge. Its about any single country leading a unilateral assault . And US has no altruistic motive. Oil is a big factor here isn't it?
 
  • #17
russ_watters
Mentor
19,716
6,063
Ok, then your concern isn't pertinent to the thread. The characterization in the CNN article and my OP was improper, I acknowledged it, and that's all there is to that. It was an error that doesn't really affect the topic of the thread.

The action in Libya was decided on by a UN vote and an international coalition is doing the action. However, it is a necessity of logic and leadership that every action must have a leader. Every military force has a commander and UN resolutions don't just spontaneously materialize on the table in the assembly hall: someone has to write and sponsor them. It is my understanding (though I'm not completely clear on it) that that leader was the US. A deeper analysis of what that means in general for international action I intend to put in another thread I'll start tonight.

Regarding motive: The existence of a selfish motive does not necessarily preclude the existence of an altruistic one. Yes, I'm sure oil was a factor here. But it is unfair nearly to the point of being factually wrong and an assertion of conspiracy theory to believe that it is the only motive. In order for oil to be the only motive for the US, the other motives publicly given have to actually be lies. Do you also believe the other signers of the UN order and the other participants in the coalition are liars or just the US?
 
  • #18
33
0
Ok, then your concern isn't pertinent to the thread. The characterization in the CNN article and my OP was improper, I acknowledged it, and that's all there is to that. It was an error that doesn't really affect the topic of the thread.

The action in Libya was decided on by a UN vote and an international coalition is doing the action. However, it is a necessity of logic and leadership that every action must have a leader. Every military force has a commander and UN resolutions don't just spontaneously materialize on the table in the assembly hall: someone has to write and sponsor them. It is my understanding (though I'm not completely clear on it) that that leader was the US. A deeper analysis of what that means in general for international action I intend to put in another thread I'll start tonight.

Regarding motive: The existence of a selfish motive does not necessarily preclude the existence of an altruistic one. Yes, I'm sure oil was a factor here. But it is unfair nearly to the point of being factually wrong and an assertion of conspiracy theory to believe that it is the only motive. In order for oil to be the only motive for the US, the other motives publicly given have to actually be lies. Do you also believe the other signers of the UN order and the other participants in the coalition are liars or just the US?
What you say makes sense. thanks for the response.
 
  • #19
246
3
Libya was already giving the west its oil so I do not understand "why Libya?"

If we want to address internal affairs of sovereign nations "why not China?" I would guess they kill more people for political reasons per year than have died in Libya.

On the war side Libya was doing a lot of business with Russia and China. Libya had its own central bank and was not borrowing from the global bankers (one of only four such nations in the world).
 
Last edited:
  • #20
GW:2
.

Russia has a navy base in Tartus, Syria.


.
 
  • #22
246
3
There were 15,000 deaths in the drug wars in Mexico in 2010. If the lose of human life is the metric then let us bring "humanitarian aid" via NATO air bombardment to Mexico.
 
  • #23
russ_watters
Mentor
19,716
6,063
There were 15,000 deaths in the drug wars in Mexico in 2010. If the lose of human life is the metric then let us bring "humanitarian aid" via NATO air bombardment to Mexico.
How would that help? Weren't most of those killed by the drug cartels, not the government?
If we want to address internal affairs of sovereign nations "why not China?" I would guess they kill more people for political reasons per year than have died in Libya.
How could we possibly do any good with military force in China?

To answer the question directly, though: Because western countries want to help without getting their hands dirty. That's why there is a "no ground troops" mandate.

Your attempts at counterexample are pretty nonsensical.
 
Last edited:
  • #24
246
3
How would that help? Weren't most of those killed by the drug cartels, not the government?
Just as Alliance drone attacks in Pakistan are not against the government of Pakistan so Alliance drone attacks (pin point surgical strikes) against the drug king pins would not be against the Mexican government just against the bad guys.
 
  • #25
149
0
There were 15,000 deaths in the drug wars in Mexico in 2010. If the lose of human life is the metric then let us bring "humanitarian aid" via NATO air bombardment to Mexico.
If you're suggesting we should actually enforce the border - shoot smugglers on site (perhaps?) - you might have a point?
 

Related Threads on Why Libya? Why Not Syria?

  • Last Post
12
Replies
298
Views
63K
  • Last Post
4
Replies
82
Views
11K
  • Last Post
Replies
5
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
3
Views
2K
  • Last Post
2
Replies
43
Views
11K
  • Last Post
2
Replies
35
Views
4K
Replies
10
Views
5K
  • Last Post
Replies
5
Views
325
  • Last Post
Replies
20
Views
5K
Top