Many recent Department of Defense press releases stress the growing alarm shared by President Obama, Hillary Clinton, Leon Panetta, and Martin Dempsey over the continued brutality of the Assad regime in Syria. The last time the DoD showed such “deep concern” over the deteriorating situation in any country was regarding Libya. The concern over Libya was soon followed by Operation Odyssey Dawn and further intervention by the United Nations in the Libyan Civil War. Given the track record of NATO and the United Nations, it’s reasonable to assume that these powers will intervene in the civil war in Syria.
There are several possible outcomes from the current Syrian conflict. So far at least 19,000 people have been killed in Syria, 9,000 of them being combatants from the loyalist army and the rebel forces combined, and the fighting continues. Given the fanatical offensives waged by rebel guerrillas deep within Damascus in the last few days, the Syrian rebel armies may very well defeat the loyalist army and oust the Assad regime. Unfortunately one obstacle may remain in their path: the Russian army, deployed in support of the regime. If the Russians get involved then they’ll use the same force and brutality they used in Afghanistan, in Chechnya, and in Georgia, neither stopping until humiliating defeat or total victory. They may very well crush the rebels unless the Syrian National Council (rebel government) seeks help.
Seeking help from the empires of the US or NATO may help the rebels’ cause in the short run, but it will greatly stunt the sovereignty of the Syrian free state in years to come, with foreign military bases and oil rigs on Syrian soil. It would also potentially put the US and her allies in a hot war with Russia.
The best way for the Syrian free forces to tip the balance of the civil war in their favor would be to imitate the course of action taken by the government of Sierra Leone during its civil war. By 1995 the psychotic guerrillas of the Revolutionary United Front had advanced to within 20 miles of Freetown (the Capital). The desperate government hired the private military company Executive Outcomes (for $1.8 million a month, paid by the International Monetary Fund) to drive back the RUF, retake all towns, villages, and mines held by the RUF, and to destroy their main base of operations. Executive Outcomes succeeded within a matter of months and they were cheered as heroes nationwide.
There are good uses and bad uses for mercenary companies. A bad use would be hiring Blackwater to operate in crowded areas without any legal repercussions, thus giving them carte blanche for violence (e.g. Baghdad Bloody Sunday). An objectively good and even noble use of a PMC would be one such as Sierra Leone’s hiring of Executive Outcomes to neutralize an insurgency infamous for hacking off the legs of recently “liberated” civilians. This solution could easily be applied in Syria. The Syrian National Council could grant legal permission for a PMC to operate within Syria in order to fight the loyalist army and arrest Assad. Such an intervention, applied from within by a local government as opposed to being imposed from without by a foreign empire, could tip the scales in the balance of the Syrian opposition, bring a speedier end to the Syrian Civil War, and preserve the sovereignty of the Syrian free state while keeping foreign empires at bay.
Syrian flags image is in the public domain. Free Syrian Army photo courtesy of Freedom House and used via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Both images were obtained from Wikimedia Commons for public use.Published in