Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Why Syria feels different from Libya

I’ve been wondering why I advocated NATO intervention in Libya but don’t feel the same way about Syria. I had thought it was because I thought all Qaddafi needed was a good shove, while Syria is more complex. But I got this note from Billy Birdzell, who was a Marine officer with Special Ops experience ...

JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images
JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images
JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images

I've been wondering why I advocated NATO intervention in Libya but don't feel the same way about Syria. I had thought it was because I thought all Qaddafi needed was a good shove, while Syria is more complex.

But I got this note from Billy Birdzell, who was a Marine officer with Special Ops experience and two tours in Iraq who went off and got an MBA (and if you know someone in the DC area who could use that sort of background, let me know and I will forward the note to him). He wrote that, "Killing several thousand Syrians so they don't kill several thousand other Syrians only to leave the nation knowing that several thousand more will die is not protecting anyone."

That strikes me as pretty succinct. It's one thing to provide the means to help finish off a reeling dictator. It is another to wade into a civil war.   

I’ve been wondering why I advocated NATO intervention in Libya but don’t feel the same way about Syria. I had thought it was because I thought all Qaddafi needed was a good shove, while Syria is more complex.

But I got this note from Billy Birdzell, who was a Marine officer with Special Ops experience and two tours in Iraq who went off and got an MBA (and if you know someone in the DC area who could use that sort of background, let me know and I will forward the note to him). He wrote that, "Killing several thousand Syrians so they don’t kill several thousand other Syrians only to leave the nation knowing that several thousand more will die is not protecting anyone."

That strikes me as pretty succinct. It’s one thing to provide the means to help finish off a reeling dictator. It is another to wade into a civil war.   

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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