President Obama has sensibly opted to seek support from Congress on Syria, which provides a window of time to approach another body that should offer more than moral support: NATO.  Here’s more from my OpEd in today’s New York Times:

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization must be part of an international effort to respond to the crisis in Syria, beginning immediately with punitive strikes following the highly probable use of chemical weapons by President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime. The president, the secretaries of defense and state, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff should all approach their counterparts to secure NATO action.

Such action could be justified based on self-defense, owing to the threat posed to Turkey, a NATO member that has backed Mr. Obama’s call for an American-led intervention; the overall threat posed by weapons of mass destruction; and, more controversially, on the evolving international doctrine of a “responsibility to protect.” NATO has not moved forward so far, because of the absence of a United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing action against Syria, but that is not required under the rules of the alliance — indeed, NATO has previously acted with force without such approval, notably in Kosovo in 1999.

Syria independence flag flies over a large gathering of protesters in Idlib, Syria. Photo:

The Syrian flag flies over a large gathering of protesters in Idlib, Syria. Photo:

Despite the potential unpopularity of such action — particularly following Parliament’s vote on Aug. 29 against Britain’s use of military force — such a mission is at the core of NATO’s role in the 21st century. While NATO had a Security Council resolution to enforce in Libya, in 2011, the alliance went into Kosovo without such approval. That could be the case in Syria, with a strong push by the United States and its allies France and Turkey, which have pledged to support an intervention in Syria. As with Libya, not every nation would need to actually provide forces (only about half did so in Libya), so long as all supported the basic principle of engagement. Read more >>

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One Response to NATO Must Help Obama on Syria

  1. Michael Patrick Anderson says:

    Dear ADM Stravridis,

    It was refreshing to read your Op-Ed in the NYT today. I too come down on the need for there to be a robust response to Assad’s use of chemical weapons and I too believe that we are “stronger together” not just by acting with the support of the US Congress, but also by acting in concert with the NATO Alliance.

    You are now at Fletcher, but you were instrumental in supporting my attendance at the National War College this year where I am a student. I have visited the NDU Library, viewed your memorabilia and spoken with an enthusiastic librarian who was so impressed that I knew you, having worked for you as the Deputy J9 at EUCOM for 4 years. Don’t be surprised if she mentions me to you the next you are at Ft McNair 🙂

    Thanks for speaking up on this important issue, I continue to do the very same in my NWC Seminar and will highlight to my peers your Op-Ed piece.


    Mike Anderson
    COL, US Army (Ret), GS-15