Ask Fareed Zakaria Anything: Libya Was The Right Call

In the latest video from Fareed, he explains why he thinks Obama was right to intervene in Libya, and in a follow-up offers a hopeful progress report on the other Arab Spring nations:

Last week in Time, Fareed made his case for why the US should not get involved in Syria, including this distinction regarding the Libya intervention:

[U]nlike Libya, Syria is not a vast country with huge tracts of land where rebels can retreat, hide and be resupplied. Syria is roughly one-tenth the size of Libya but has three times as many people. Partly for this reason, the Syrian rebellion has not been able to take control of any significant part of the country. Nearly half of all Syrians live in or around two cities, Damascus and Aleppo, both of which seem to remain under the regime’s grip. Sporadic night attacks in other places recur, but they don’t expand.

Nor is it clear that the Syrian opposition is capable of unity. Popular opposition to Assad is neither broad-based nor organized. The Syrian National Council, the umbrella group of organized opposition, appears unable to unify behind a leader, agenda or set of goals. Rima Fleihan, a grassroots activist who escaped from Syria to organize the opposition, quit the council, telling the New York Times, “They fight more than they work.”

The geopolitics of military intervention is also unattractive. Whereas in Egypt and even Libya, all the major and regional powers were on the side of intervention or passively accepted it, in Syria that is not the case. Iran and Russia have both maintained strong ties to the Assad regime. Were the Western powers to intervene, it would quickly become a proxy struggle, with great-power-funded militias on both sides. That would likely result in a protracted civil war with civilian casualties that would dwarf the current numbers. To many observers the situation in Syria looks less like Libya and more like Lebanon, where a decades-long civil war resulted in over 150,000 deaths and a million displaced people.

Fareed also made the Lebanon connection in his Ask Anything answer on Syria. Fareed Zakaria GPS airs Sundays on CNN, as well as via podcast.  Zakaria is also an Editor-at-Large of TIME Magazine, a Washington Post columnist, and the author of The Post-American WorldThe Future of Freedom, and From Wealth to Power: The Unusual Origins of America’s World Role. Our AA archive is here.