Why haven’t we learned? The Rwandan Civil War, the Nicaraguan Civil War, the Sri Lankan Civil War and the Cambodian Civil War are but a few of the civil wars the world has seen since the end of WWII and the creation of the supposed ‘arbiter’ of the international system of states, the United Nations. Every time a new civil war begins the world collectively looks to the conflict, attempts to assess its palatability and then looks away again, as if nothing had happened.
The Civil War in Syria is an affront to humanity. All civil wars are an affront to humanity. But like most civil wars; they’re incredibly complicated. Never really justified, they’re typically anchored in primordial disassociations which are centuries old and nuanced with more modern political, economic and social misgivings. The Syrian Civil War is no exception.
It is at this moment that the world is collectively looking at Syria, attempting to gauge whether or not intervention should happen. Whether there is a domestic appetite for an international conflict that does not really impact the daily lives of many countries which have the ability to intervene is another question. Ultimately either the status quo will prevail or a majority of the international community will intervene. There are copious benefits and drawbacks to both intervention and non-intervention, but ultimately, the international community should intervene in order to say that we as humans will no longer tolerate the senseless killing.
The dangers to non-intervention are obvious. The status quo remains. Hundreds of thousands continue to die, the humanitarian crisis worsens in Syria and neighbouring countries and tempers rise across the Middle East with the potential to boil over elsewhere. Moreover, nonintervention risks further dividing the Syrian people; it allows the fractured rebel groups including the Free Syrian Army (~50,000 soldiers), the Syrian Liberation Front (~37,000 soldiers) and the Syrian Islamic Front (~13,000 soldiers) to become even more fractured. It allows the military representing the government of Syria to strengthen its resolve. All of this equates to more killing; more of the same. Innocent civilians that want to live in peace are being killed.
The only beneficiaries of nonintervention are Western powers, noncommittal about intervention, and the powers that are actively supporting the Assad regime. The status quo is obviously a beneficial power play for Putin and his Kremlin and for countries such as the UK who can watch to see what will be the next move for those more willing. But nonintervention will not stop the killing. It does not heal the wounds of sectarian conflict. It would only perpetuate the already exaggerated differences between Syrians. It adds to the myths of hatred that have long dwelled in those ancient lands.
For those that have the power to intervene, the spectre of imperialism will always follow. The lines that have been drawn in the sand, for the most part have origins not in Syria, but in Europe. And this differentiation that imperialism brought to the fore has certainly done a lot to foment hostilities throughout the Middle East.
With intervention, who should we (that is, people who want to see a stop to the killing) support? Should we think outside of the international system?Are states not beneficiary to this part of the world? We need to ask genuine questions outside of the traditional western state-system box to see what intervention should encompass so that it supports all factions of the Syrian population and allows for remedies between different identities. That means that there must be stability as soon as intervention takes place. There is the omnipresent danger that once intervention is complete, there will be a new-faced imperialistic order dictating a solitary Syrian interest. This cannot happen with intervention and if it does, then intervention is not something I could support.
People may die as a consequence of intervention, but it will be far fewer than if the conflict rages on. And we will be able to tell our children and grandchildren that we stopped the killing, we put an end to the senseless violence. We helped preserve humanity.
There are two benefits to intervention. First, it is the best way to stop the killing. There is a genuine possibility that the killing may end if we intervene to stop it. Second, this is a chance to stand against violence, against killing and against civil war.
It is so easy to turn a blind eye to something so horrible as civil war. Why not now? Why not let this be the first step in a new status quo, where civil wars aren’t perpetuated and where they aren’t used as proxies for international sparring. We’re all humans, lets perpetuate that.
Image Credit: Tigr