Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Things We Cannot Admit About Syria.

From my Ottawa Citizen op-ed spot:

Two years into the catastrophe of the Obama doctrine in Syria and already, circumstances are far, far worse than they were two years into the Bush doctrine in Iraq. This is the penny that simply hasn't dropped. It is what "the culture" cannot bring itself to admit. As humanitarian crises go, the Syrian catastrophe is worse than Kosovo '98 and Haiti 2010 combined, and if the people of the NATO countries are unaware of this it is at least partly, it would be fair to say, because the political elites of the NATO countries cannot bring themselves to admit to any of it.
In 2005 in Baghdad, the Baathist dictator Saddam Hussein was in U.S. custody at Camp Cropper, awaiting trial before the Iraqi Special Tribunal on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Today in Damascus, the Baathist dictator Bashar al Assad is still in power, still fit and flush with cash and arms from Moscow and Tehran, still subjecting innocent civilians to massacre, and still dropping bombs on his people - 500 bombs just last month.
Two years after Shock and Awe the Iraq Body Count project put the 2003-2005 death toll at 67,365 civilians. Two years into Compromise and Capitulate, the Syrian civilian death toll, by the reckoning of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, is roughly 94,000, and possibly as high as 120,000.
That's what my column in the Ottawa Citizen is about this morning. I did not delve into the pathology abroad in "western" culture that has rendered the Ottawa-based Humanitarian Coalition unable to raise more than $306,000, three weeks into a major fundraising drive for Syrian refugees, which is the same pathology that has left Oxfam America stuck at $140,000 of its Syrian relief goal of $53 million.
It is quite true that it is always easier to raise relief money for natural disasters, like floods and earthquakes. It is also true that, unfortunately for the Syrian people, they are Ay-rabs, which is to say there are certain bigotries and prejudices that are unlikely to be wholly irrelevant as contributing factors in the go-begging predicament the Humanitarian Coalition and Oxfam America are struggling with.
What is also true is that to face the Syrian catastrophe foursquare would require a confrontation with the truth of an Obama White House that has exhibited an inelegant balance of mendacity and incompetence from Kandahar to Aleppo and from Benghazi to Beijing. It would mean taking into account that the White House was still insisting that Assad was a "reformer" even as he was slaughtering teenagers in the streets of Homs. 
It would mean admitting that it's not just Hezbollah's depravities or the head-chopping intrusions of the Bin Ladenist Jabat al-Nusra brigades or Moscow's arms shipments or the Khomeinist supply convoys that make Syria "complicated." It is also Washington's decision to block the Free Syrian Army's access to proper arms, Washington's refusal to support Britain and France in the push for a no-fly zone and a humanitarian corridor.
It would mean admitting that John Kerry's Geneva II "peace conference" proposition has done nothing more than provide Vladimir Putin with a time-buying opportunity to sell Assad more missiles. It would mean admitting that the failure to act is also to act, and that all the fancy talk all these years about the "responsibility to protect" doctrine and the "human security" agenda amounts to nothing, when it actually might matter. It would mean admitting that it is not just Assad's hands, but the lovely big hands of the handsome and swaggering American president who dances with Ellen Degeneres that are also red with Syrian blood.
That is what it would take, is my guess, and until that happens Syrians will continue to die by the hundreds every week and limp into refugee camps in the Jordanian desert by the thousands every day.
Congratulations, hippies.


Blogger James O'Hearn said...

I was watching Fareed Zakaria speak about this, and he rised a point I had not really considered before. His argument goes something like this:

Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria were all minority regime countries. And they all faced the same problem.

If Assad is taken down, the fighting won't stop, it will just shift towards the ethnic cleansing of the Alawites. And when that is done, it will be the Sunnis, the Shias, and Druze at each other. (In the case of the Druze...allying with whoever is stronger at that moment.)

The mistake in Iraq was not realizing that after the Baathists had been removed from power, overwhelming force would be needed to keep the factions apart, and to deal with the guerrilla warfare on the part of the ousted Baathists.

When the Christians in Lebanon fell from power, it took 15 years of civil war before some sort of normalcy returned. After the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, the US pulled out and never intervened again. In Iraq, however, they did intervene, and 10 years later normalcy still has not returned, with the exception of more ethnically homogenous areas like Kurdistan.

In Iraq, Saddam had, effectively, no allies of note. Assad, however, has very powerful allies who are willing to supply him with money and munitions. Taking out Assad would be much more difficult, I believe, and even if that occurred, I can't even begin to image the size of the SFOR that would be needed to keep the factions apart. Bosnia is a fraction the size of Syria, and the numbers of troops required of the UN or NATO would be more than the political climate would currently allow.

So while I'm with you on the "Way to go, hippies," I have a feeling that most clear-eyed hawks are probably seeing this the same way. Other than just walking in and taking over the country like some sort of neo-colonialism, there does not appear to be much that can be done.

12:44 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home