Even though the military challenges might make it unfeasible, we should acknowledge the moral and historical cases for intervening.
A Syrian boy in Homs stands in front of a burned out armored vehicle belonging to the army / Reuters
I was an early supporter of military intervention in Libya. I called for a no-fly zone on February 23, just 8 days after protests began. Now, we're nearly 300 days into the Syrian uprising. Very few analysts, myself included, have publicly called for foreign intervention, even though the Syrian regime has proven both more unyielding and more brutal than Muammar Qaddafi's.
Steven Cook, in a recent and controversial piece, made the case for the military option in Syria. I agree with much of Cook's article but not all of it. Emotionally, and from a purely moral perspective, I agree with all of it. The risks of intervention, however, are tremendous. Marc Lynch has made the most persuasive case for caution. So I find myself torn.
It may make sense, then, to revisit the reasons I, and several others including Lynch, broke ranks with our colleagues on the left and supported the NATO operation in Libya. First, American policymakers should -- as a matter of principle -- take Arab public opinion seriously. In the lead-up to the Iraq War, there were no widespread calls among Iraqis themselves for us, or anyone else, to intervene militarily. In Libya, there were. The Libyan rebels were practically begging us to step in with military force.