Anatomy of a Safe Area: The Military Requirements of Humanitarian Protection During Civil Wars

39 Pages Posted: 13 Jul 2020

See all articles by Sara Plana

Sara Plana

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, Department of Political Science

Date Written: January 14, 2019

Abstract

Civil wars frequently see violence against civilians, generate enormous internal displacement, and produce unmanageable refugee outflows to neighboring countries. Since at least the Second World War, the international community has struggled to provide protection to these war-impacted civilians within the country as well as once they flee. One solution that periodically surfaces in response to this problem is the establishment of a “safe area” for civilians within the borders of the war-torn country. However, little open-source work has evaluated the intricacies of this policy idea, especially its military requirements, costs, and potential risks. This paper provides this much-needed assessment through a close analysis of two possible options for a campaign to establish a safe area in the ongoing Syrian civil war. I find that the option that provides the most complete security to a humanitarian safe area in Syria (an area protected by air and ground assets) would likely be unprecedented in scope and cost, resembling the ground commitment of peak US counterinsurgency efforts, whereas its cheaper alternative (an air-only safe area) does little to address the strategic goals of the safe area and risks the safety of civilians in the process.

Keywords: safe zone, Syrian civil war, Syria, safe area, humanitarian protection, military, military strategy, civil wars, campaign analysis

JEL Classification: F5, F50, F51

Suggested Citation

Plana, Sara, Anatomy of a Safe Area: The Military Requirements of Humanitarian Protection During Civil Wars (January 14, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3631148 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3631148

Sara Plana (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, Department of Political Science ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States

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