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.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, Middle East, National Security, US Politics, World Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    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.

    Why bother? We all know why and I can sum it up in 3 syllables: O-bam-a.

  2. legion says:

    This is kind of a trick question – in Libya, the main thing that Ghaddafi had that the rebels didn’t was air power – he could use it & the rebels couldn’t really do anything about it. In Syria – I’m sure I’ll be corrected if I;m wrong – I don’t recall hearing any reports of air power being used against demonstrators – just the Army’s infantry & tanks. So a no-fly zone over Syria wouldn’t actually accomplish anything.

  3. Tsar Nicholas II says:

    Ah, the Internet.

    Postulate a few of these dichotomies:

    Syria has very close ties to the Iranian regime; the latter of which as we all know is the greatest threat to stability in that entire region, arguably in the entire world. Libya has no such ties.

    Syria has been in a de facto state of war since 1947 with our closest ally in that region. Can’t say the same thing about Libya.

    Here’s the best one of all:

    Libya has a lot of oil, Chief. Glug, glug, glug, mmmm, oil. The Rambobama administration nearly jumped out of its skin to wage aerial war there, in support of, uh, the French. Syria, on the other hand, has no oil. Dry. Barren. None of that black gold. The chances of the Rambobama administration doing anything in Syria fall somewhere between zero and none. Have you connected the dots yet?

    That all said, certainly it’s questionable at best whether a no fly zone over Syria materially would affect the ongoing slaughter of the Syrian people and whether it materially would assist in toppling the regime. Ergo it should be a debate subject for the GOP candidates. The same question also should be posited to Secretary Clinton and to Rambobama, and assuming they demurrer the question then should be asked how the administration would be able to justify intervening in Libya and not intervening in some way in Syria. Don’t hold your breath, though.

  4. Rob in CT says:

    Of course, a “no fly zone” over Syria would involve (as it did in Libya) airstrikes against said infantry & tanks. Because, you know, words don’t really mean anything.

    War? No, this is a police action.
    War? No, this is a humanitarian intervention.
    War? No, this is a no-fly zone.

  5. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Rob in CT:

    My thoughts exactly. In Libya, our no fly zone very effectively combated all those flying tanks and flying infantry.

  6. @Tsar Nicholas II: Syria is close with Iran? I thought the standard conservative talking point was that Syria held Saddam’s chemical/biological weapons.

  7. G.A.Phillips says:

    All I want to know is if Al qaeda or the Muslim brotherhood asked for for our help yet, otherwise I say no….