There Is Still Time to Back the Syrian Opposition
MICHAEL BRÖNING is a political analyst at Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, a Berlin-based political foundation affiliated with the Social Democratic Party of Germany. He also lectures at the Freie Universität in Berlin. This article reflects his personal views.See more by this author
Last winter, in an article for Foreign Affairs, I argued that in light of escalating violence in Syria it was time to back the Syrian national coalition. Given that the Syrian moderates were “the only forces in the country without a steady flow of foreign arms,” I suggested that providing “military and financial support to the national coalition” was the best of many far less desirable options.
After months of deliberations in Washington and European capitals, the die was cast. Two months ago, the European Union decided not to extend a comprehensive arms embargo against Syria, effectively facilitating European military support for the opposition. Two weeks after that, the White House authorized the “expansion of assistance to the supreme military council.”
These were anything but easy calls. Since the Syrian conflict arose, the notion of getting involved in it has posed severe moral, tactical, and strategic dilemmas. The assessment, as I laid it out in my original article, that “the kaleidoscope of opposition groups in Syria seems too fractured, and their ideological leanings too opaque, to merit support” was and remains difficult to dismiss, as does the fact that that supporting one side in the Syrian conflict could “effectively close the door on negotiations with the regime.” In fact, with seven months lost and 100,000 people killed, these quandaries have only gotten worse.