Anatomy of a Safe Area: The Military Requirements of Humanitarian Protection During Civil Wars
39 Pages Posted: 13 Jul 2020
Date Written: January 14, 2019
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: Suggested Citation