Rick Perry Calls For No-Fly Zone Over Syria, Or Something
No doubt eager to shore up some semblance of foreign policy credibility, Rick Perry sat down with Charles Krauthammer and a few other Fox commentators yesterday and went further than any other Republican candidate when it comes to the uprising in Syria:
In an appearance on Fox News Monday evening, Texas Gov. Rick Perry said he would impose a unilateral U.S. no-fly zone over Syria in an effort to force regime change there.
Perry’s statement came in response to questions from columnist Charles Krauthammer, who asked whether Perry would support armed resistance in Syria. Perry said he believes “Iran is the real issue in the Middle East” and that the United States threw away a great opportunity to support regime change in Iran in 2009. “Naively, this administration was talking to Syria and the Iranians, and we wasted a great opportunity,” Perry said. Now, Perry vowed to “put everything on the table to encourage the fall of the Syrian regime.
Then Krauthammer asked: “Would you do what we did in Libya, which is to institute a no-fly zone over Syria? If you were president today, would you advocate that we do that in Syria?”
“Absolutely,” Perry said. “Absolutely.”
At that point, Fox panelist William Kristol asked Perry if he would impose a no-fly zone unilaterally, without waiting for the United Nations to approve. “I would not spend a lot of time waiting for the U.N.,” Perry answered.
Here’s the video:
There’s only one problem with Perry’s idea. Unlike Libya, the majority of the action by the Syrian military against rebellious cities has been on the ground. A no-fly zone would do nothing to stop that and expanding a no-fly zone into something larger would essentially make us a combatant in what may be turning into a Syrian Civil War:
The longer it goes on, the greater the risk of it becoming a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia; even if Assad ends up being dislodged, there’s no telling how Iran and Hezbollah might lash out. Want to be in the middle of that, especially since Sunni hardliners are most likely to benefit if Assad is toppled? Also, bear in mind that most of the fighting in Syria is on the ground, not in the air, such that a no-fly zone probably wouldn’t help much unless we’re prepared to once again extend “responsibility to protect” into an all-out offensive against the regime and its forces. And where would this no-fly zone be staged, exactly? Carriers in the Mediterranean? If you’re thinking Iraq or Kuwait, remember that the Maliki government has been notably warm to Assad even as other Arab states have distanced themselves. Maybe you could get Turkey to let us use their bases, but would Turkey want to end up on the wrong side of Iran?
Conveniently, there is a foreign policy debate tonight, airing starting at 8pm Eastern on CNN. Hopefully, someone will ask Perry to explain himself on this one and for the other candidates to explain if they feel differently about Syria than they did Libya, and why.