Just another day in Damascus…
The situation in Syria…of course many of us claim to know, or have heard some of the many different views about the conflict.
Reporter Paul Danahar puts in like this, that “If you are not confused by what is going on there, then you do not understand it.”
From what I have read and heard, the Syrian Civil war started out as predominately an uprising against poverty, like most violent political revolution.
It started as a movement against dictatorship, oppression, and is often attributed to the Arab Spring that saw the instatement of the Muslim Brotherhood in nations like Egypt, Libya and Bahrain.
But increasingly it seems the real reasons to why this revolution was started are being lost to the interests of outside influences.
Increasingly it has become a proxy war between UN member states, which can’t seem to agree on what to do about the situation.
And so the real reasons have been lost in the two years of fighting, the bickering between spectating nations, and Syria itself is slowly eroding away while the conflict continues.
The loosely grouped band of rebels, who are at best united against Assad, are all vying for potential control of the country, with some imposing Islamic law on the cities that have been captured.
It has become increasingly a sectarian conflict whose influence will eventually spill beyond the country’s borders.
Does this mean we ought to intervene?
In this modern world we have established a set of unalienable rights that it is often proclaimed we are all entitled to.
I find this interesting because, things like human rights, rules of engagement, international trade laws – all these systems have been created by human beings, for human beings, and the only authority they have comes from human beings and our willingness to adhere to these prevailing systems devised.
Part of what is so important to democracy, and what makes this system work is a right to sovereignty. And just as we apply this concept to the individual, so too must we apply this to a collective nation – and give them the freedom to govern themselves.
While we have a history of colonial rule and paternalism in this nation and the west at large, the UK is no longer an imperialist empire – or at least we claim to no longer be – and Syria is its own nation with its own government and ruling bodies.
However, Syria is not a democracy, and its ruling body is inherently a dictatorship. Does this does this mean we have a right to intervene? Ultimately we would want the same rights for Syrians, as we have for ourselves in this nation. Yet I am almost certain that most of us in the UK would not take to kindly to Syria intervening in our affairs, given similar circumstances.
It is not for us to impose democracy on a foreign nation, just as we cannot impose our own concepts of fairness, of justice on other people. The IMF and worldbank have frequently tried to apply concepts of free markets on developing nations, which caused widespread corruption and increasing inequality.
In this country we claim to believe in democracy, sovereignty; we are entitled to our freedom of speech. And so I put it to you dear reader, that we can persuade, we can coerce through nonviolent means, yet ultimately it is for the people of Syria to be the bearer’s of their own destiny, and it is up to the Syrians to devise their own code of law from which to govern their country.
Assad will fall regardless of western intervention, no dictatorship lasts forever, in fact no empire has been able to stand the test of time. All nations have inevitably been resigned to the same catastrophic fate. This is precisely because we are human, and fallible in this regard. Our knowledge is incomplete, our ability to analyse the long term affects of our actions is poor at best.
We simply can’t see into the future, hence no matter how much we might try to fathom the consequences of intervention, we are always likely to be wrong in our assumptions.
Even if we were to intervene militarily, would we really know what’s good for the people of Syria? Would we really know which faction is best to support, what would constitute the best outcome for the Syrians?
Yes, we can help the people of Syria, but that does not necessarily entail military intervention.
Some politicians, including Obama argue that it if the Syrian government is found to be using chemical weapons the West must militarily intervene further.
I think it is a ridiculous notion that chemical weapons are more deadly than other weapons used in warfare.
The fact remains, chemical weapons such as sarin gas are far less deadly than more typical means of warfare used by modern armies.
A British army bomb disposal expert in a 2007 Register piece said “Far from possessing any special deadliness, chemical warheads are less potent than ordinary conventional-explosive ones.
“If your aim is to kill and injure as many people as possible, you’d be a fool to use chemicals. And yet chemicals are rated as WMD, while ordinary explosives aren’t.”
I think we must be very weary of the chemical warfare argument for intervention, because it is remarkably similar to the WMD argument used to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
In regards to chemical warfare – while weapons such as Sarin Gas are banned internationally, and rightly so of course, we must ultimately aspire to live in a world where weapons in their entirety are deemed obsolete.
What makes a weapon powerful? What kills a person? Is it the bomb, the bullet, the rifle, or the person pulling the trigger?
If we were all categorically opposed to war, if we all chose not to fight, then all weapons would lose their ability to oppress, kill and destroy. If we chose the path of peace over war, if we simply did not capitulate to fear or paranoia, all these weapons would lose their power to kill and destroy.
We don’t need to intervene with our guns blazing. There is no omen on us to solve the Syrian conflict, a conflict we have helped exacerbate by choosing sides. What we must do is stop arming the world, what we ought to do is stop producing weapons to destroy and harm one another. If we took these steps – the most powerful nations in the world that is – if we were to set a precedent for peace – real peace mind you, then perhaps other nations might follow suit.
I find it utterly ridiculous and hypocritical for Obama to set a red line at chemical weapons, when his administration has laid waste to so many nations. The drone wars in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia, the war in Afghanistan and Iraq all bear testament to how destructive his administration has been.
I accept that it is obviously quite difficult to watch what is happening in Syria and it may make us think “something must be done.”
But does this mean we are morally obliged to intervene?
Yet again this is a case of western paternalism and propaganda at work While nations such as Saudi and Qatar have their own selfish sectarian reasons for intervening, it seems western powers are more concerned with their own safety, their own influence and perception in the international community, then the well being of the Syrian population.
Yet the case against intervention is very clear – whether it be economic or military, directly or through proxy, history has shown our meddling in the affairs of other nations has been largely detrimental to actually causing real tangible change.
For instance, the Iraq war and the infamous “War on Terror” is widely considered a failure, having caused a staggering amount of “collateral damage”, corruption, sectarian violence and anarchy. There is still a great deal of political unrest in the region, despite over a decade of “liberation”.
It was never the US’s job to liberate the people of Iraq.
This shows us that in reality, despite the plethora of conspiracy theories pertaining the US master plan in the region, around the world in fact; in actuality there is seemingly no clear direction to US foreign policy, and this also applies to intervention in Syria.
On the one hand we fight Al-Qaeda, and on the other we supply them with aid, we supply them with training and weaponry. It seems that these groups have their uses to the US military when they are unable to directly intervene.
The fact remains that the US has been helping the very extremists factions they are fighting in Iraq and elsewhere.
A week ago the US state department announced in an annual report that they were continuing to defeat Al-Qaeda and that the organization became less influential.
It seems the US is trying to foster this alliance of convenience.
Because our governments have their own political agendas in mind when deciding what course of action to take, we can’t rely on them to necessarily do the right thing.
Syria is in an important nation, an important ally to western enemies such as Iran, Hezbollah and more loosely Russia. It makes sense that the US would want to oust Assad, to weaken those who pose a threat to it’s unparalleled international influence.
In a meeting between EU member states, an embargo on arms for Syrian rebels was lifted. Britain and France are in favour of supplying weapons to their favoured rebel groups.
In terms of how this might affect the Syrian conflict, I think providing arms to selected groups would not necessarily overthrow the Assad regime.
While I understand and appreciate the desire to want to bring democracy and peace to the nation, so far arming rebels has done little but cause more difficulties for the people of Syria.
The long length of this uprising compared to the other Arab Spring revolutions can be directly attributed by external forces, funding of both sides from different invested groups.
The fact remains, it is an absurd notion thinking that creating more weapons, financing more destruction can bring peace. In fact it is quite the contrary, our meddling in affairs has exacerbated the situation in Syria. It has lain waste to the nation over the course of these last two years.
Bringing more arms into Syria will lead to further bloodshed, it will only bring more hardship for the people of Syria. We need to reach out to Assad and his allies, we need to reach out to all the rebel factions also. What we really need to do is put our ego’s aside, forget about our fears and insecurities and realise we don’t have the solution to this conflict.
Because the last two years have shown that to be honest, nobody does. And you can’t expect to extinguish this flame by lacing it with petrol and hoping for the best.
We can’t arm the rebels with sophisticated military technology and hope things will turn out okay, that democracy and peace will come to Syria. Because that simply hasn’t worked in the past, and only required further intervention to fix the problems we created.
The UN security council is comprised of 5 member states, that account for 77% of the worlds arms trade. Imagine for a second, if production of all these weapons were to suddenly cease.
Imagine if instead of sending more bombs to help destroy Assads forces, we built more hospitals to help the civilians harmed.
Imagine if instead of arming the rebels and taking sides, we provided unconditional asylum to people wishing to flee Syria.
Imagine if we sent carpenters, builders, teachers and doctors, instead of soldiers and other proponents of warfare.
This is the kind of intervention we need to be using. This is the kind of revolution be need to instigate in Syria, and the world in its entirety.
If both the US, Russia and other members of the UN security council collectively agreed to refuse to arm any side of the conflict, to refuse to take any side, at some point the fighting would have to come to an end.
Or we can continue to provide the Syrians with the means to kill one another, to destroy their own homes, till at some point they’d be reduced to carrying out warfare with sticks and stones, the dusty remnants of the once great city of Damascus.
Is that what we really want?
We need to arm people with not weapons, but knowledge, with empathy, with the power to change their own circumstances without the use of force, through democracy and peaceful protest. We need to help the Syrian people stand united, and we must stand with them all, not one side or the other. Most importantly however, we must not help them kill one another, because this isn’t bringing an end to the fighting. It’s ruining lives, its destroying families and entire generations of Syrians have fallen victim to the destruction of this civil war.
The time for intervention is now – but we don’t need bullets nor bombs, what we need is peace and love. If there are two things we can be certain of; weapons murder, and politics kills. Only we can bring peace, collectively that is, if we stand united we can instigate the kind of categorical change we need to help the people of Syria out of the bloody conflict.
-By Suhail Patel