Syria: Doing nothing is no longer an option

by Ray_North on August 26, 2013

UnknownOne thing about Tony Blair, his justification for the invasion of Iraq has always been consistent – in Blair’s world, Saddam Hussain was the ‘bad guy’ he and George Bush were the ‘good guys’ and the bad guy had to be removed. Which, of course, he was.

And, in executing their act of ‘moral righteousness,’ the allies decided to ignore International law, diplomacy, evidence, and any sense of rational foresight as they mounted their massive invasion of another sovereign land with the express intention of ‘ousting’ its leader.

Now, if there is any consistency in international politics, then, when it comes to Syria there should be a similarly shocking and awesome invasion with the full force of the American and British military might. Because, without doubt, President Assad is the bad guy. Indeed, the argument for military intervention in Syria is significantly stronger than it was in either Iraq or Afghanistan – Assad is actually killing his own people in large numbers.

But, of course, it’s not that simple. For a start – history has taught us that the Iraq War was not as straightforward as a John Wayne type removal of the bad man – though, perhaps Tony Blair’s prime motive may have been a crude moral crusade, for Bush, the influence of vested interests both commercial and ideological played massively in his decision to go after Saddam, Syria does not resonate in the same way with the American right.

The Americans have also realised (long after everyone else) that once you have invaded a country, the hardest part of securing it and transforming it into the peaceful elysium of your choice is a whole different kettle of cod. The plans for a post-invasion Iraq came unstuck within days of Bush’s claim that the mission had been accomplished and the subsequent chaos resulted in bloodshed on a much greater scale than anything that could have been brought about by the ‘bad man’ they removed.

Indeed, after the disaster of Iraq and the prolonged campaign in Afghanistan, public opinion is very much against any kind of intervention in Syria with an opinion poll today showing that less than a third of Americans favour intervening in the Middle East. Whilst the continued opposition of Russia and China makes the likelihood of a United Nations resolution to give a military intervention legitimacy extremely unlikely.

So what do we do?

Because, we can’t do nothing.

To do nothing will be to condemn potentially tens of thousands of people to their deaths. In the last week nerve gas has been used in Damascus – Assad, denies that it is his forces who are using chemical weapons, and, it does look like an act of extreme folly to use them just as the UN Weapons Inspectors arrive – but, with Medicin Sans Frontieres confirming that over 350 people had been killed by the effects of neurotoxins, then, the evidence of their use is strong, and, if they aren’t being deployed by Assad’s forces, then they are being used by rebels on their own people, which, in some ways is just as scary (though surely unlikely), and another argument against inertia in the region – because Assad will not baulk at retaliating in kind.

But how should this intervention take place?

Well, first, the UN Weapons Inspectors must be allowed to gather their evidence and present it to the UN Security Council. The use of chemical weapons is contrary to International Law, and it would be difficult even for Russia and China to ignore the use of nerve gas – it must be right that some kind of UN Resolution would be forthcoming sanctioning military intervention.

Second, prior to military intervention, and, as part of any UN Resolution, both sides must be given the chance to instigate a proper cease fire monitored by a UN force similar to that adopted in the former Yugoslavia in 1995, and during the cease fire, attempts must be made to broker a peace deal – though this will clearly have to include the removal of Assad, it may be that Assad is granted safe haven somewhere out of Syria as part of any peace process.

Third, if this fails, then, there must be UN backed military intervention, initially in the form of strategic targeting of military units. This is not a case of bombing Arabs, this is saving children and innocent people – as I’ve said earlier in this piece, the argument for military intervention in Syria is, in my opinion far stronger than it ever was with Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya.

Fourth, there must be a clear plan as to what to do after any intervention has taken place, this must be put into place with the assistance of the Arab League, and must not involve American companies making money out of the reconstruction of Syrian infrastructure, nor must it involve simply replacing Assad with a ‘pro-West puppet.’ It must involve the introduction of democracy into the area, but, more importantly, there must be an intelligent use of aid and trade to help a post-Assad Syria prosper.

Fifth, there must be some kind of restructuring of the UN – sadly, the UN, has once again proved utterly ineffective in preventing the civil war in Syria from growing into the awful bloodbath that it has now become.

No one wants to start intervening in foreign wars. No one wants to risk more disasters such as those that we have experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan. International politics is not simply going around wearing a big white hat and removing the bad guys from office – it is far more complicated than that, but, in Syria, we cannot continue to sit back, do nothing and hope the whole thing just stops of its own accord, because with every passing day, more and more innocent people and children are being killed.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

George_East August 26, 2013 at 7:25 pm

Or at least with the ‘unexpressed’ intention of removing the bad guy. Iraq was expressly about WMD and very much not regime change.


Ray_North August 26, 2013 at 7:47 pm

Yes, I agree – though, over the years, Blair has pretty much come clean that the real reason for the invasion of Iraq, was to ‘remove a monster’.


Charlie East-West August 26, 2013 at 9:16 pm

Ray – that is a really good article.

I agree with your general thrust of your arguments. Unfortunately, however, this is idealistic.

How is this any different to say, Iraq? It has been well documented that Saddam slaughtered his own. Another bad guy. So, the key reason for going in to Syria – to stop the bad guy – remains the same.

Critically however, the whole thing will inevitably fall apart on your fourth point – the aftermath of intervention. It will be almost impossible to control a post liberated Syria without becoming embroiled in a civil war between Assad supporters, Al Qaeda influencers and rouge terrorist units. Any UN or allied forces that are left in the ground will be subject to guerrilla attacks and forced into a war of attrition within a brutal climate and terrain, combined with a social and cultural landscape that the forces will not understand or acclimatise towards.

Finally – vested interests. Inevitably Western defence interventionism will lead to Western corporate interventionism.

Recent history has taught us as much. So why would a potential Syria intervention be any different?


George_East August 26, 2013 at 8:37 pm

Which would have been illegal – hence the lies.


Jackie_South August 26, 2013 at 10:19 pm

The problem with intervention is that we are also signing up to its consequences. There is no reason to suspect that the aftermath of regime change will be any prettier in Syria than it was in Afghanistan or Iraq, and indeed some good reason to suspect it would be bloodier.

You would not want to be an Alawite Shi’ite, Christian or Druze living in Syria if the Free Syrian Army or its allies took control.


Mike Killingworth August 27, 2013 at 6:28 am

There is another angle. Ask yourself: what would al-Qaeda want?

As Egypt shows, the idea that they are just a bunch of swivel-eyed loons no one likes is no longer anywhere near the truth, if it ever was. More horrific than chemical weapons (and I suspect that William Hague thinks this too, which is also scary in a different kind of way) is the realisation that if al-Qaeda do not yet speak for the average Arab in the bazaar, the day when they do is not far off. Which of course is why the West has tolerated if not actually backed dictatorships in the region.


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