Those who watched the Democratic debate last Tuesday may recall a conversation that took place about the merits of implementing a no-fly zone in northern Syria, near its border with Turkey.
It’s a divisive issue in the political spectrum, with presidential hopefuls on both sides of the aisle offering varying opinions. On Wednesday, Hillary Clinton voiced her support for it, and Bernie Sanders was adamant against it.
The immediate goal of a no-fly zone would be to save Syrian lives. The Syrian government, led by Basher al-Assad, is dropping barrel bombs — canisters filled with explosives and metal fragments — on civilians in areas that have been taken over by opposition forces (the same forces the U.S. supports), killing some 200 people per week.
Turkey is strongly pushing for a no-fly zone to stem the flow of Syrian refugees into its borders.
So that makes it sound pretty clear-cut, right? Institute a no-fly zone, and it stops Syria from killing its own people.
The problem is enforcement. Think of a turnpike with speed limit signs but no state troopers. Why would you bother slowing down?
If the U.S. and other world powers implement a no-fly zone, they must enforce it, meaning shooting down planes that disobey. Which would further entangle our nation into what has already been an ugly and violent civil war.
Further muddying the situation is Russia, which is currently flying over Syria to attack the forces that oppose Assad’s regime.
If a no-fly zone is administered, and Putin ignores is, that leaves the U.S. with the harrowing decision of whether to shoot down Russian aircrafts.
We pretty much spent the better part of five decades trying to avoid armed conflict with the Soviet Union. At the time, many speculated the world was on the brink of World War III.
So the point is that this is pretty much an impossible decision to make. At best, it furthers U.S. involvement in a brutal war, and at worst, sets off a global crisis.
It’s easy for a presidential candidate to say what they would do without having to deal with the consequences. From what I’ve heard from those who favor it, when questioned what they’d do if Russia disobeyed and flew through it anyway, respond with the ambiguous cop-out: ‘We’ll deal with it if it happens.”
At least for his part, Marco Rubio came out and said that he would retaliate against Russia if they violated a no-fly zone. But that doesn’t mean it’s smart.
Simply put, it’s decisions like these that make me glad that the toughest choice I had to make today was whether to have a piece of leftover chocolate cake or a Mallomar for dessert this evening.
I ate both.