Pop Quiz: Syria is (choose one):
- (A) Iraq in 2003
- (B) Iraq in 1991
- (C) Kosovo in 1999
- (D) Rawanda in 1994
- (E) None of the Above
If you answered any of the above, it’s simple: you are wrong. This is totally different and yet totally the same as all of the above conflicts and genocides. It is sad and disturbing to type my thoughts from the comfort of a first world country, with the position to criticise dictators in a (somewhat) free state (USA), and have no repercussions. But haven’t we all seen this before, I mean what is truly different from this potential military intervention than say, Iraq? The political pundits will say, the whole WMD mess or rather lack of WMD being found in Iraq has made administrations cautious about future military actions against non-aggression towards the USA. Sure, and then you pile on the Obama platform of “Change” that intended to restore the image of America to the rest of the world, and you get caution internally within the administration, and the external image is also one that is being treaded carefully.
But there so many players here. Let me first state some really obvious things: America used to meet with Bashar al-Assad and his administration. There were joint military discussions, military intelligence sharing in the wake of 9-11, and general working relationships between the USA and Syria. The war in Iraq really messed up the relationship between the US and Syria in that a bunch of nut cases started using Syria as a jumping platform to move into Iraq and fight the US-coalition troops. So things got messed up, but still there was a hospitable relationship between US and Syria based on some good faith between both nations. John Kerry, Bashar al-Assad, and their wives had dinner in Damascus in 2009.
Now when I say hospitable, I mean to the outside. Behind the scenes, the US was throwing money behind anti-government organizations with Syria to fight against Assad’s control. A few million here and there will buy you TV time and you can eat away at the power at the top.
This is an oil rich nation that trades heavily with Russia. But the nation has more strategic value than purely a resource play; the location is key to creating pressure against Iran, which when that topples will pretty much erase (in a naive sense) the list of strong nations that oppose the major world powers.
So what are the motivations? Obama waited way to long to justify the “for the good of the women and children” angle. Already nearly 100k persons in Syria have been killed in the 2 years of fighting, and the “red line” being chemical weapons is a false statement. There were chemical weapons previously used in 2012, and depending on what you classify phosphorous as, well you could have multiple viewpoints. Chemical weapons are clearly not just Sarin, Anthrax, and Ebola virus.
Russia supplies military-grade weapons to Syria. How many? Roughly 1.5Billion dollars of weapons and a pipeline for more orders in the future. We are talking about fighter jets, attack helicopter, but what really got the world stage so upset was the sale of surface to air missiles which scares the hell out of Israel, and frankly any NATO or coalition force that is interested in changing the power players in that region.
So Russia benefits financially with Syria. They also benefit strategically by having allies in that region to continue to share a somewhat anti-US sentiment as Syria can easily take on the appearance of the larger Russian state’s persona.
There is clearly genocide in Syria. The shellings, the murder, the chemical attacks, and the 1/3 of the population being refugees as the borders overflow and folks make their way to forsaken countries like Iraq. “Out of the flying pan, into the fire”.
But what must be done. In Rawanda and Liberia, the world watched as murder on the scale not seen since (well since Vietnam/Cambodia/Laos/Myanmar), took place. And the world powers or the UN could have done something about it. And with that comes the balance: there is always this question of imperialism or isolationism that gets tossed around like a coin. As if it would be one or the other. There is the extreme view that we (USA) play a world role in protecting the world from the bad guys, and the contrasting view is that we should not be “nation building”, in that we need to take care of our own problems. “We need to fix Detroit before we fix Damascus, etc, etc”.
But we as citizens of a larger group of ideas need to consider that our governments are not “good”. They never had been. They act with interests in mind. Sometimes our own, sometimes there is a far more complex system at play. Just like when you applied for the lead in the school play and you didn’t get it. Maybe you were a better tree or backdrop.
Attacking Syria and bombing the hell out of Assad might be the right thing on a small scale, with an intention to “hurt the regime”. But at this stage in the game, it seems highly unlikely that good could come of it. Yes, it is evil that someone on any scale would hurt women and children, and for that, a world stage should be set to save people from their certain destruction. We as a world should not turn a blind eye to the genocide, and yet we ask the UN for their acceptance of this action. The same UN that has agreed to have Russia and China sit at the security world council, which have blocked measure after measure for UN missions to stop bloodshed of civilians. Profiteering is always popular during wartime. The US has benefitted immensely in times of war.
We as citizens of the world can not blindly accept that millions of people are in danger, that hundreds of thousands die, and that we do nothing. Yes there are al-Qaeda fighters right along side the FSA, and yes there are folks that want to rise to power in Syria with blood on their hands. But there are also children and families that have nothing to do with this, and they are completely powerless to the situation that built around them. Just protect them as best you can.
Now of course my opinion would not convince the strongest of the Ron Paul supporters (I voted for him too!); but I have dropped my flag waving, and my Noam Chomsky book waving, or my leftish-leaning ways to say: sometimes it’s OK to do something that is not pure. Sometimes it’s OK to support a cause to hurt an aggressor, even when you know the history in detail and you know that it’s not a simple Good vs Bad argument. In this case, I think the military intervention is hardly thought out well, it’s way too late, it’s wrong internationally, it’s wrong legally, but it’s right to stop the killing of people, even if it’s just for now.