It has been pointed out that I haven’t said anything about Syria at all, which may seem odd considering the amount of time I spend harping on about Libya.

Part of this is a general burnout on such a topic, seeing the same arguments that were thrown forward for Libya being thrown forward again. I haven’t the energy or the will to go over it again. Another part is just focusing on Libya itself, which I have grown to know more about over the last year. But, I suppose I can offer a few thoughts on Syria.

The community that was hellbent on a NFZ in Libya has thrown a hissy-fit over the Russia/Chinese veto which is very strange to me, considering that the thing they were voting on wouldnt’ really have done anything in Syria. It all seemed like the usual UN pantomime, the only thing up for dispute being how each side was going to spin it.

My realist side, very dominant at the moment, has little to say, and no condemnation to level at Russia and China. They have their interests, they’re looking out for themselves. What can you do? The UN has been set up in this way, so if you don’t like it, start trying to change it.

Aside from that, many of the reasons not to go into Libya also hold true in Syria. It is not vital to western interests. It will not be a limited operation. It can’t be done without ground forces of some kind. It will put western lives and ordinance at risk. It will risk making the west look even worse in the Middle-East. It will risk leaving a group in power that we know next to nothing about.

And there are reasons not to go in that are not the same to Libya. A much better trained and better equipped armed force. A potential enemy with the capability of lashing out at important neighbours, not least Israel. A “rebel” force that may be even loss organised and cohesive then the one that overran Tripoli.

If the Arab League wants to intervene, let them. But let them do it on their own if Assad’s removal means so much to them.

Right to protect has always been an ideal that cannot be maintained when push comes to shove. Many people, so enamoured by the success in Libya (yet not so enamoured that they continue to look at whats happening in Libya) are beginning to learn that now, that when presented with a situation like that in Syria, the powers that be balk and falter, putting their energy into blaming someone else for their lack of response.

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1 Response to Syria

  1. Owen Kelly says:

    A good piece. Syria is not Libya. And there is no world policeman. What would a SECCO resolution actually achieve without boots on the ground (metaphorically but probably actually as well)? There is also the realisation all round that intervention anywhere is rarely if ever swift and surgical and that the end result may far removed from that intended.
    It is not clear what the outcome in Syria will be. Assad senior murdered tens of thousands, and hung on, but those were different times and the international climate, as well as that within the Arab world, has changed. Assad’s backers seem likely to continue to support him unless and until they feel his regime is doomed, in which case they will look for a solution that preserves the maximum amount of their influence. Cynically, one thing that might help him hang on would be a general rise in tension in the region over Israel.
    One of the ironies, on which presumably Saif al Islam reflects in jail, is that had Gaddafi played his cards better he might have avoided his ultimate fate. Had he, like Assad, kept sthum and merely got on with attempting to crush opposition quietly and out of the media spotlight, he might well have clung on and perhaps negotiated a transfer of power that preserved his skin.
    I don’t know enough about the internal divisions and dynamics within Libya when the unrest began last year. But his bloodcurdling public rhetoric and threats as his forces advanced towards Bengazi all but forced a western response. With the ghosts of Rwanda and Bosnia in attendance, and given Gaddafi’s own track record over decades of international shit-stirring and support for or involvement in acts of terror, it would have been all but impossible for western leaders to sit in their armchairs and watch an all-out assault on Bengazi on their televisions. Am I correct in recalling that Obama used the phrase “Not on my watch”?


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