Slaughter: Turkey must act on Syria
Demonstrators protest in front of the Syrian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, this week.
February 13th, 2012
08:32 AM ET

Slaughter: Turkey must act on Syria

Editor's Note: Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former director of policy planning in the US State Department (2009-2011), is Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University. For more from Slaughter, visit Project Syndicate or follow it on Facebook and Twitter. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Anne-Marie Slaughter.

By Anne-Marie SlaughterProject Syndicate

As the world watches the obliteration of the Syrian city of Homs and the crisis spills into neighboring Lebanon, it is time to ask what separates great powers from small powers. Turkey’s international star has risen steadily over the past few years, with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan being lionized in many Middle Eastern and North African countries, and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu traveling the world as the representative of an increasingly influential power. Indeed, Turkey and Indonesia have joined the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) on the list of the most important rising global players.

Now, in Syria’s carnage, Turkey is facing a critical test of its regional and global aspirations. It is time for its leaders to stop talking and start acting.

Davutoğlu first raised the idea of establishing a buffer zone for the Syrian opposition on the Syrian-Turkish border three months ago, when the Syrian death toll was roughly half of what it is now. By mid-November, Erdoğan was the second regional leader (after Jordan’s King Abdullah) openly to call for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down. At the end of November, Davutoğlu again confirmed that the Turkish government was mooting various relief plans, including the possibility of a buffer zone.

Yet the only real action since then has come not from Turkey, but from the Arab League, which sent in monitors and formulated a plan for a political transition in Syria. After Russia and China vetoed that plan at the United Nations, and with Syrian forces around Homs (and Zabadani) giving every indication that they intend to flatten everything in their path, Davutoğlu proposed holding a conference “as soon as possible” to “promote international understanding with all countries concerned.”

A conference? Turkey is essentially proposing more talk, again delaying doing something that would make a difference on the ground.

Killing is never to be undertaken lightly. The Turks have many reasons to worry about the consequences of sending their soldiers into Syria, even for the most demonstrable humanitarian purposes. Turkey and Syria still have border disputes; for many Syrians, scenes of Turkish troops crossing the border, even behind lines of Syrian opposition fighters, would rally nationalist pride and strengthen Assad’s narrative of foreign-inspired terrorism and insurgency.

Yet Turkey is in the best position by far to demonstrate to Assad that the international community is serious about stopping the killing. Working closely with local coordinating committees, it should provide logistical, intelligence, weapons, training, communications, and even air support to help the Free Syrian Army establish no-kill zones along Syria’s northwest border.

In particular, Turkey could help the FSA to cut the Syrian army’s lines of communication, and deny government forces access to entire areas through the coordinated use of early-warning intelligence and anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons. The FSA might then be able to isolate local Syrian army commanders and try to negotiate truces and defections, ultimately building a defensible chain of population centers. If that strategy fails, Turkey and Arab League states would have to contemplate sending in ground troops, with extensive logistical and intelligence support from NATO.

Turkey is currently on the spot, but the larger lesson applies far beyond Syria and, indeed, the Middle East. Power stems not just from size, strategic location, a strong economy, able diplomacy, and military capacity. It also requires the will to act - the understanding that true leadership means the courage to take and implement even decisions that are deeply unpopular in some quarters.

The United States has sometimes been too ready to turn to force. The invasion of Iraq, without compelling evidence of weapons of mass destruction, international legitimacy, or sufficient preparation for the responsibilities that would follow, is a stark reminder of the human and material cost of plunging into war.

On the other hand, President Bill Clinton’s decisive action with regard to Kosovo in 1999 saved a country, just as NATO’s intervention in Bosnia four years earlier brought the parties to the table and stopped the killing. Similarly, Britain’s willingness to place troops off the shore of Sierra Leone in 1999 helped to end a horrific conflict within weeks, and France’s intervention in Côte D’Ivoire last spring, under a U.N. mandate, stopped a post-election civil war that was rapidly spinning out of control.

Australia’s willingness to send troops into Timor-Leste in 1999, again under a U.N. mandate, may have not only saved that country, but helped transform Indonesia as well. Indeed, one sign of Indonesia’s rising influence is that its army - which had terrorized and massacred East Timorese - could be called upon today in the service of human rights in its region. Likewise, Brazil’s decision to send troops into Haiti in 2004 as part of a U.N. Stabilization Force burnished the country’s image as a responsible regional power.

Syria is a far more dangerous assignment than Haiti, to be sure, but if, say, the government of Paraguay or Uruguay were brutalizing its citizens on a mass scale, the world would rightly look to Brazil to lead a response. In Africa, Nigerian troops have often played a critical role under the mandate of either the African Union or the Economic Community of West African States.

States that are eager to enjoy the trappings of great-power status - the deference accorded their diplomats, high-level global parlays abroad and important diplomatic conferences at home, and the assumption that they must be consulted on major events or crises in their regions - must accept the burdens that go with it. They must be prepared not just to talk, but to act.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of Anne-Marie Slaughter.

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Topics: Middle East • Military • Syria • Turkey

soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. MONKEYES...

    jesus was wereing this towel, and his mother so called vergin mary was wearing it moses before him all those wearing the turbins are in the bible.....

    February 13, 2012 at 10:17 am | Reply
    • DAVID


      February 13, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Reply
    • DAVID

      Hell will be waiting for you! Please go get help for your self .

      February 13, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Reply
  2. fk u all

    We must FK bashar al kalab

    February 13, 2012 at 10:18 am | Reply
    • Joseph McCarthy

      I wish that all you Tea Partiers would just posting your foul remarks here and quit using that nasty Tea Party lingo!!! Like I said before, it has absolutely no place here!

      February 14, 2012 at 11:52 am | Reply
  3. dreamer96

    A buffer zone is a good short term idea to save lives now, but those people may never be able to return home, and run the risk of becoming long term refuges with nothing..that is not a long term solution...but not a bad idea right now..

    February 13, 2012 at 10:56 am | Reply

    قتلى بسوريا ومعارك بين الجيش ومنشقين

    آلية للجيش السوري في مدينة دوما بريف دمشق (الفرنسية)

    قالت الهيئة العامة للثورة السورية إن 25 قتلوا اليوم برصاص الجيش السوري، فيما تحدث ناشطون في الوقت نفسه عن اشتباكات جرت الليلة الماضية في مناطق متفرقة بين الجيش السوري ومنشقين.

    وأوضحت الهيئة أن شخصين قتلا بنيران القوات السورية في ريف دمشق بينما قتل الثالث في حماة.

    وكانت الهيئة العامة للثورة السورية ذكرت أن 36 قتلوا أمس بنيران الجيش والأمن السوريين في درعا وحمص وإدلب والحسكة ودمشق.

    دبابتان تقصفان حي بابا عمرو بحمص (الجزيرة)
    قصف واقتحامات
    ميدانيا أيضا, نقلت رويترز عن الناشط محمد الحسن أن الجيش السوري قصف الليلة الماضية حي بابا عمرو بالقسم الجنوبي من حمص حيث قتل في غضون بضعة أيام ما يقرب من 500 مدني.

    وأضاف الحسن أن الجيش قصف أيضا حي الوعر بغرب حمص, مشيرا إلى أنباء عن هجمات شنها الجيش الحر على حواجر المليشيات المؤيدة للنظام (الشبيحة).

    وقصف الجيش السوري الليلة الماضية أيضا بالأسلحة الثقيلة مدينة الرستن التي ينتشر فيها الجيش الحر وفقا لناشطين. وتحدثت وكالة الأنباء السورية الرسمية من جهتها عن خطف مجموعة مسلحة ضابطا برتبة عميد في حي القرابيص بحمص.

    وفي سياق العمليات الميدانية أيضا أشارت لجان التنسيق المحلية والهيئة العامة للثورة السورية إلى اقتحامات وعمليات دهم في القورية بـدير الزور, وفي بيبلا بريف دمشق, وبصرى الشام بدرعا.

    كما اقتحمت القوات النظامية أحياء في حماة, بينما أشار ناشطون إلى إطلاق نار من الجيش السوري في داعل بدرعا. وقالت لجان التنسيق المحلية إن الجيش السوري أطلق النار بكثافة الليلة الماضية عند الحدود مع الأردن مما دفع الجيش الأردني إلى إطلاق قنابل مضيئة.

    اشتباكات وهجمات
    وقال الجيش السوري الحر في بيان إنه هاجم رتلا عسكريا في القلمون قرب جسر معلولا وأعطب ثلاث دبابات.

    المنشقون صارت لهم شوكة في
    بعض المناطق السورية (الجزيرة)

    وقال ناشطون من جهتهم إن اشتباكات جرت الليلة الماضية بين الجيش السوري ومنشقين في خربة غزالة بدرعا.

    ووقعت اشتباكات متزامنة في درعا البلد استخدمت فيها الرشاشات الثقيلة وفقا لناشطين. وفي درعا أيضا, تحدثت المصادر ذاتها عن كمين نصبه منشقون لقوة عسكرية نظامية مما أدى إلى جرح عدد من أفرادها.

    وفي الرستن بحمص, انشق عسكريون بينهم ضباط, وأُعلن في المدينة ذاتها عن تشكيل كتيبة محمد الفاتح التي ستعمل تحت لواء الجيش السوري الحر.

    وقال ناشطون إن جنودا منشقين هاجموا حاجزا للأمن في كفر حلب بمحافظة حلب دون الإشارة إلى إصابات.

    وكان ناشطون قالوا إن اشتباكات جرت عند المدخل الشمالي للرستن بين القوات النظامية ومنشقين قتل فيها ثلاثة من الجنود السوريين. وفي حماة, جرت أمس اشتباكات مماثلة قتل فيها ثمانية من الجنود النظاميين، وفقا للمرصد السوري لحقوق الإنسان.

    في الأثناء, تظاهر آلاف السوريين الليلة الماضية في عدد من المحافظات للتنديد باستهداف حمص ومدن أخرى, والمطالبة مجددا بإسقاط نظام الرئيس بشار الأسد.

    وتحدث ناشطون عن مظاهرات في أحياء جوبر والمزة والقابون والسيدة زينب بدمشق. وفي منطقة دمشق أيضا, حاول متظاهرون قطع الطريق السيارة بين العاصمة السورية ومدينة درعا في مستوى نهر عيشة لكن قوات الأمن تصدت للمظاهرة بالرصاص.

    وأشار ناشطون إلى مظاهرات ليلية متزامنة في دوما وقدسيا ويلدا وعرطوز والضمير بريف دمشق. وتحدثوا عن احتجاجات مماثلة في داعل ومناطق أخرى بدرعا, وفي حزانو بإدلب, ودار عزة بحلب.

    ونظمت مظاهرات أخرى مناهضة للنظام في الرقة, وكذلك في الحسكة. وأحصى ناشطون 25 ألف شخص شاركوا في مظاهرة بمدينة ديريك بالحسكة.

    February 13, 2012 at 11:01 am | Reply
  5. j. von hettlingen

    True, Anne-Marie, Turkey must act on Syria, but the Turks are wary of its fragile mosaic of ethnicities and sects. In order to avoid a full-blown war of the conflictual groups in the region, the Turks opt out military intervention and arming the opposition. They are trying to unite the fragmented opposition groups and persuade the regime to come to the negotiating table. They have in mind to help form a transition government in the post-Assad Syria and call for elections.

    February 13, 2012 at 11:36 am | Reply
    • yes

      That's a great comment. You're way wiser than the author who calls for unhelpful actions, greetings from Turkey.

      February 13, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Reply
    • Turkish American

      Yes, you are truly wiser than CNN editor. I second that.

      February 15, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Reply
    • perhaps

      As a turkish, do not support the "idea" of sending turkish boys to die for the sake of Assad and his dynasty family. Unless Syrians in majority(over 80%) are asking for (military) intervention. Besides, if Turkey have to go in, we know, we will be on our own very soon after (as many times in History). Turks know very well the pro's and dont's in times as this.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:10 am | Reply
  6. Wim Roffel

    Ms. Slaughter seems to like having many people killed. She was an enthusiastic supporter of an intervention in Libya that saw 30,000 Libyans killed – much more than even the most pessimist expected Gadaffi to kill – and now she wants to see a repeat in Syria.

    In contrast to what Slaughter claims the Syrian government has until recently be very withholding. Even now there are protest demonstration in many places without the government interfering. Assad also repeatedly has shown himself ready for talks with the opposition. What made him to employ the military in Homs is that the armed Syrian opposition (supplied with arms, money and advisors by the Wahabi's from Qatar and Saudi Arabia) began to establish "liberated" zones where government supporters and employees are no longer safe. By supporting this Slaughter in essence says that she wants to throw Syria into a civil war.

    February 13, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Reply
  7. GokTurk

    Ok America can have Iraqi oil and afganistani gems/gold, but Turkey has to invade dirt poor Syria for moral reasons? Nah.

    February 13, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Reply
  8. matt a.

    For discussions of the Syrian conflict, some of us might request Ms. S. use a pen name, and not the surname filled with a loaded meaning.

    February 13, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Reply
  9. DAVID

    Are you from this Earth? All I can say is you have a Garbage mouth. You need to just shut up and go away nerd.

    February 13, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Reply
  10. Peter

    "The invasion of Iraq, without compelling evidence of weapons of mass destruction, international legitimacy, or sufficient preparation for the responsibilities that would follow, is a stark reminder of the human and material cost of plunging into war."
    It's more a stark reminder of the uncertainties of war. The evidence of WMD's was compelling, with the British and Germans believing it as well as US officials. The effort had great international legitamacy, with over 25 nations participating. The outcome of any Turkish incursion into Syria would be just as uncertain.

    February 13, 2012 at 7:15 pm | Reply
  11. DAVID

    David is my name and FK alqyeda is my game....bam bam bam lets bam Iran.......FK Iran and Syria , FK Hezbollah

    February 13, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Reply
  12. Greek American

    Turkey will do nothing, just like they always have done. Just sit around, eat some falafel, and continue to try and suck the EU's a*s so they can become members. Sorry Turkey, you will never gain membership because the world has known the real you for a long time now.

    February 13, 2012 at 9:27 pm | Reply
    • Fatih

      are you greek? lazy greek 🙂 do you have any idea what happening in Greece? you greek people are lazy and it's time to payback. price for laziness. what about Turkish economy? now go make some sirtaki dance and suck Aristo's b.lls

      February 14, 2012 at 1:59 am | Reply
      • Usher

        y don't u suk his/her b*lls!!!

        February 16, 2012 at 6:59 am |
    • gok

      not my fault you got conquered by us ; )

      February 14, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Reply
    • Turkish American

      Soon greece will be kicked out of EU... and Turks don't eat falafel, we eat doner, baklava and yogurt, all of which are stolen by the greeks, hence the conclusion of lazy and thief nation, stealing from whoever they can find, from Turks or from European. If I was a German, I would try to bring down Merkel from government for letting greeks steal my tax euros.

      February 15, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Reply
    • Usher

      ohh really!!!

      February 16, 2012 at 7:02 am | Reply
    • Dianne Bourdain

      I didn't laugh this much in a while. This is like a joke. Greeks are among the last people on earth surface to criticize anyone. Most Greeks keep their mouths shut because they are embarrassed to say anything, while a few manage to post such random nonsense. Turks do not eat falafel, you can't find it in Turkey, that's an Arabic Middle Eastern food. Turks eat same food as Greeks, Greeks adopted them all while they were under Turkish Ottoman Empire rule for 500 years.

      Turks proved themselves in the past and they prove themselves today, they are capable of running a country. They had the last major empire of the world for centuries, they have the 15th largest economy of the world with the 2nd highest growth rate after China today. Words are cheap. It's always failed races of the world that attempt to criticize Turkey and the Turks, such as Armenians, Kurds, and Greeks. EU is a joke, God help you if you didn't figure out yet. Turks are not stupid to hop on a sinking ship while many members want out, they don't want to feed you lazy Greeks or the other EU member nations that are about to go bankrupt. Turks produce, they don't just rely on bogus greek gods and rely on tourism. You lived a life way beyond your means and now it's payback time, you will suffer as you deserve for a long time to come. At least, be quiet so that you don't get responded to with the reality.

      February 24, 2012 at 1:31 am | Reply
  13. Benedict

    Turkey has taken the lead in the call for Assad to step down due to the slaughter of innocent civilians in Syria. It simply means that they have be pro-active in an attempt to get the Syrian government to effect change or be overthrown. Welcome to status of regional power,Turkey!!

    February 14, 2012 at 3:23 am | Reply
  14. Turkish American

    I am amazed that these comments are not monitored for faul and offensive language

    February 15, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Reply
  15. Usher

    GO TURKEY (S) (*)

    February 16, 2012 at 7:03 am | Reply

    Thaier Souri
    لقد أثبتت روسيا أنها بلد محكوم بمجموعات مافيوية لا يعنيها من أمر البشر الا مقدار ما تجققه من مكاسب, و أثبتت أن لا منظومة أخلاقية تحكمها و ربما تحكم شعبها, و ربما كانت هذه خطوة أخرى حاسمة في انحسار الدور السوفييتي السابق الذي اضمحل الى حجم روسيا و لا ندري الى ماذا سيضمحل لاحقا, و كل ذلك بسبب غياب الركيزة الخلقية الداعمة للمواقف المعلنة أو الغير معلنة

    73 MOURAD
    روسيا و الصين تشعران بتواطؤ اوروبي امريكي يهدد مصالحهما الاقتصادية

    72 عفوا سوريا ومعذرة
    النظام السوري وما يرتكبه من مجازر بحق شرفاء سوريا الشام العظيم ما هو الا الفساد والبطش بعينه وما هو الا للحفاظ على مصالح فردية لفئة علوية طغت وتجبرت وتقمصت دور الممانعة والقومية العربية وهي تلك الفئةهي التخاذل والجبن متمثل على وجه الخصوص بشخص بشار الاسف وزبانيته. شلت يمينك يا من تطلق القذائف والقنابل على شعب حمص الاعزل ودرعا وريف دمشق ودير الزور فوالله رجالهم رجال ونساؤهم خير الحرائر . الله على ظالم جبان

    71 الفجر

    يا لها من مهزلة يا جماعة كل هذه الجرائم منذو ١١ شهرا انتهت بكلمة في الجمعية العامة بادانة .هدفهم جعل من سوريا صومالا اخر.على فكر هل اسرائيل ايضا نددت ام كانت مع...سعودية تصيغ القرارات ومصر توزعه وروسيا تعدل بالقرارات والمعارضة الخارجية مشغلون برئاسة المجلس الوطني والشعب يقتل على يد من لا احد يعرف

    70 ليث
    لافروف زود عميله بشار بالاسلحه وهو والصين يديرون عمليات قتل الشعب السوري وبشهود احد الضباظ المنشقين..روسيا اصبحت في الجانب المخزي من التاريخ ..ولافروف يتحجج يالقاعده وكانه القذافي ..لا ينقصه الا ان يصيح ..زنكه زنكه دار دار..بس يقوله بالروسي مافي مشكله المترجم موجود.

    69 عربي حر
    اعرفوا يا عرب ويا مسلمين ان نظام السوري ونظام الحاكم في ايران وحزب الله واسرائيل هي جميعا اوجه لعمله واحده افهموووووووووووووووووو

    68 سوري
    كم اكره اي انسان يقول سوريه الاسد يا اخي دوله كامله تربط بشسخص يوجد في سوريه امكانات رهيبه وسوريه لجميع الطوائف والاديان الذي يقول ذلك هو انسان لايعيش الا ياكل او امي حتى ولو كان متعلما

    February 16, 2012 at 11:02 am | Reply
  17. sklep gsm

    Awesome issues here. I'm very satisfied to look your article. Thanks so much and I am looking ahead to contact you. Will you please drop me a e-mail?

    April 2, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Reply

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