The U.S. should not bomb Syria. By bombing Syria, the U.S. sides with the rebels: the good, the bad, and the fanatical; yet it will not end the tyranny of the Assad regime. So it will fail.
Still, the U.S. must intervene in Syria, but do so in a three-fold manner: humanitarian action, political and diplomatic engagement, and military pressure. This three-pronged approach is not being discussed at all, but it is likely to be the only way of resolving the Syria crisis. The U.S. should be leading the world community toward establishing humanitarian corridors, safe zones, and/or “internal refugee camps” inside Syria. No doubt such an action will require military support—which would have to be international in scope. And any military engagement would be “defensive” in nature, not “offensive”: i.e., it would aim at defending and supporting the humanitarian action (refugee assistance, aid convoys, safe zones, transport, and logistics).
A first step toward such humanitarian action may well be the “political solution” that many global leaders have called for, which could begin with the U.S. and Russia finding common ground on Syria, using the UN as the inevitable institution to secure an end to the slaughter and a political resolution to this civil war. We will have to wait and see.
Denis J. Sullivan is Professor of Political Science and International Affairs and Director, Middle East Center for Peace, Culture and Development at Northeastern University. This post is part of U.S.-Syria Perspectives, a project developed by the International Program at Carnegie Corporation of New York