Foreign Policy Sifter

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Call in the Hessians

Recently, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called for the creation of an “assistance hub” inside Syria. No, it’s not something that comes with your AAA membership—this appears to be code for a safe zone not only to protect refugees (heck, even Turkey’s been asking for that), but more importantly, it’s a way to funnel weapons and money to members of the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA). The idea quickly received the coveted Washington Post editorial board’s thumbs up. The Post contends that the “hub” requires only a “modest military force and could cause the regime to collapse.” But alas, there are so many cursed obstructions to this approach: as wunderkind Dan Trombly notes, proxies can be dangerous; there is no chance of UN security council backing; Turkey might not really want to do it; forces which the greatest military power on the face of the Earth sends abroad can hardly be deemed “modest”; and no one knows what the aftermath will look like. Oh yes, and a “worn out” US military would be involved in another expensive operation. Even though it is not entirely clear how Assad’s fall necessarily benefits American interests, the Responibility to Protect crowd clearly reigns at WaPo: “Mr. Assad will fall only when his attacks are blocked and countered; it follows that U.S. policy should aim at that.” Follow it might, but not logically so. What about the part of at least a nod toward the US national interest? Oh, whatever, that’s so cynical. It’s time to get abreast of the pundit craze and strap on our kevlar.

Given the price tag of military operations in an age of austerity and the heartless objections of those who would demand a clear goal beyond stopping the killing, let’s dust off an age-old way to lower the costs of intervention: mercenaries. That’s right, Fouad Ajami, we’re willing to start a PayPal account just for you and your friends to pony up the money for hiring modern-day Hessians to create a safezone in Syria!

Yes, yes, it’s insane, but crazy like a fox, no? How, you say, is this even possible? To whom would these people answer? What would happen if the contractors are overrun or the company decided to leave? Are they even capable of protecting that many people? These are merely minor details, dear reader, for think of “the stakes” of NOT intervening: if the killing is not stopped, the consequences are somehow sure to be greater than if the western powers are only peripherally involved! Oh, the blow to our mortal enemies, the Iranians! After all, what’s the point of having a disturbingly large reserve of privately employed battle-hardened warriors if you can’t use it? Since the feckless denizens of the UN and White House remain unwilling to live up to their moral obligation to humankind, it is time to round up as many former South African special forces as possible (see picture) and fly them to Syria.

Again, you’re thinking, “Why?” But we’re thinking, “Why not?” The Syrian Army is slowly being degraded through expenditures, sanctions, and defections. Meanwhile, the FSA is only becoming stronger—and who says private military companies can’t work with suicide bombers? Companies like Academi (aka Xe aka Blackwater—now they’re the thinking man’s mercenaries!) and Triple Canopy are rather powerful. More importantly, they don’t have the puny force protection requirements or rules of engagement that handcuff the US Army. In short, these guys are bold and charitable. Even appeaser-extraordinaire Kofi Annan considered using them in Rwanda. By their own accord, then-Blackwater could have stopped genocide in Darfur. Syria is as good a place as any in which to deploy such mercenaries. Hell, in Sierra Leone they only needed 160 men and a few helicopters to “win” the war—fighting Assad’s significantly more numerous and better armed goons won’t be too different. Given the average mercenary’s full-spectrum knowledge of warfare, managing the web of Syrian tribes and ethnicities will be a cakewalk. Plus, with goals as crystal clear as those of NATO in Libya, there is no risk of “mission creep.” What could go wrong? Using mercenaries to create a safezone in northern Syria should be as easy as setting up the fortress at Dien Bien Phu. And it would be in the Syrians’ own interest. At least the Syrians we like. Except for the Christians, anyway.

  1. foreignpolicysifter posted this
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