War is an imperfect instrument for righting humanitarian catastrophes. Avoiding it appears to be a noble endeavour. However, categorically rejecting it can cause more suffering than it actually prevents.
NATO’s policy over Syria is a case in point. Just a few days ago, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen explicitly ruled out military intervention yet again, saying it was “not the right path”, despite the increasingly deteriorating situation.
But Rasmussen’s statement was not a message of peace. It was a death sentence. The signal it sent to Assad and his brutal crime regime could not have been more lethal: You can kill. And you can do so with impunity.
The international community effectively provided the Syrian government with an insurance policy for its frantic mass-slaughter. Assad is now a dictator without fear and constraints.
As if the situation had not been precarious and fragile enough!
Those who want to avoid war by all means, even on the expense of innocent children having their throats cut, must understand that intolerable pressure on the regime – internally and externally – is the key to it. Taking military options off the table and out of the equation is therefore counterproductive and fatally undermines their strategy.
While I believe that we have long passed the point of peaceful transition and a potential diplomatic solution and should engage in principled humanitarian interventionism in the face of utter evil, the very least the innocent victims of Assad’s crimes against humanity can expect is that the international community refrains from sending out messages of indifference and incompetence, which escalate the conflict even further.