The slaughter in Syria, with its terrible consequences in that country, the region and worldwide, demands urgent action to end the horrific human suffering. Unfortunately, some well-intentioned, concerned people advocate ratcheting up US military engagement, which could lead to more death, destruction and suffering, not less. There are several reasoned refutations of supposed humanitarian intervention proposals, such as a no-fly zone (promoted by some during the presidential election campaign), safe zones and humanitarian zones.
In the wake of the election and President-elect Donald Trump’s appeals to xenophobia, racism, misogyny and fear, no-fly, safe and humanitarian zones do have applicability, but in the United States, not Syria.
No-fly-zones: Cities that didn’t vote for Trump (which means most cities) should declare their airspaces to be no-fly zones for Air Force One with Trump or Vice-President-elect Mike Pence on board. Residents could roll out virtual or actual, “Sorry, we don’t want racist, misogynist fear-mongers in our city” unwelcome mats. Air traffic controllers, ground personnel, baggage handlers and military personnel (if Trump is flying into an Air Force Base) might organize a sick out on days Trump is scheduled to fly to their cities. Just say No-Fly.
Safe zones: Trump’s racist, anti-immigrant, anti-woman and Islamophobic rhetoric and policies demand the creation of safe zones and spaces for targeted populations. Safety pins on lapels are a great start as a statement of personal solidarity, but we can do more. Places of worship, schools, public parks, businesses and community centers can all be declared hatred-free zones and sanctuaries. Many cities have already declared themselves to be sanctuaries in terms of refusal by local governments and police agencies to cooperate with federal Immigration Control and Enforcement (ICE) deportations. With the renewed threat to undocumented human beings from a Trump regime, this needs to be expanded and strengthened. In Washington, DC, there is already a letter in the works to Mayor Muriel Bowser demanding she reaffirm her stance for DC sanctuary, oppose the cancellation of federal funds to sanctuary cities and that she meet with local organizations supporting at-risk individuals and communities.
Humanitarian zones: Also already in the works, many communities around the country have decided they will stand against xenophobic paranoia and instead welcome refugees (often fleeing US-exacerbated wars) to their neighborhoods and homes. If refugees still want to come to this country after the election, they should be welcomed with open arms, minds, hearts, doors and wallets.
Many are feeling understandable despondency at the election results. Taking concrete action and responsibility for letting the country and the world know Trump’s fear-based reign of terror will not prevail is the best antidote to despair.