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Should the U.S. step in, arm Syrian rebels? Five takes

February 11, 2012 |  4:06 am

Syrian rebels march in Idlib. Should the United States step in to stop the violence in Syria? The debate grew more heated this week after China and Russia vetoed a U.S. Security Council resolution calling for President Bashar Assad to cede power, which was seen as a first step in international action to quell the conflict.

The Obama administration has said it won’t arm the rebels, who include Syrian military defectors acting as something of a guerrilla army. A growing chorus of commentators says it should.

"An American official remarked that 'there is a growing danger that if the slaughter which Assad has been engaging in continues, others might step forward to aid the opposition.' That is the danger? We should be those others. We should aid and arm the Free Syrian Army” of opposition fighters, Leon Wieseltier writes in the New Republic.

Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.) has repeatedly argued that the U.S. can and should intervene without putting soldiers on the ground, possibly by providing medical equipment or setting up no-fly zones.

"There's a lot of things that can be done, and we should be doing them, and quickly, while these people are dying in the street," McCain told CBS News.

But Ed Husain at CNN counters that intervening would do more harm than good, requiring an ongoing, costly U.S. troop presence on the ground afterward that would leave Americans as "sitting ducks" for Hezbollah.

Others argue that arming the rebels won't work. "No amount of arms in the hands of such untrained rebels will come even close to defeating the Syrian army," wrote Ehsani, a Syrian American banker, on the Syria Comment blog.

And at Foreign Policy magazine, Mark Lynch says that even if it works, "should the Syrian state collapse suddenly, these armed groups would be operating in a security vacuum amid accumulated fears and rage. This is not a pretty picture."

What do you think? Tweet your opinions to @latimesworld.


Avoiding the Syria trap

U.S., allies weigh options in Syria

Russia, China veto new U.N. resolution on Syria

-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

Photo: Syrian rebels march Friday during a demonstration in Idlib, Syria. Credit: Associated Press