by: Tony Halsteindal
The Syrian Civil War has been going on now for 2 years and 7 months, and although it is impossible to estimate exactly how many casualties there’s been so far, there seems to be a general agreement that the death toll has surpassed 100 000. This is including both combatants and civilians. Instead of considering a military response, the international community seems to be taking a more diplomatic approach. Since the UN reports proved that chemical weapons have been used in Syria, and in fact killed civilians as well, the international ban on chemical weapons provided an approach for a diplomatic solution for the crisis.
Whether or not if it actually was the Assad regime who used them is somewhat disputed. For the most part there is a wide belief that it was the Syrian government, but Russia, Syria’s main international ally, urges the possibility for a rebel culprit. Nevertheless, as of 1 October the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) entered Syria and began their supervision of the destruction of Syrian government’s chemical weapons stockpile. For their ongoing efforts in Syria the OPCW has been rewarded with the Nobel Peace Prize of 2013. Does this prove that diplomacy can end wars? That the conventional response with military force isn’t necessary anymore?
In my opinion I have to disagree, even though I would be glad to see the day where diplomacy would prevail over military force, I’m sad to say that this isn’t it. Even if we get rid of all chemical weapons Assad has, it still leaves him with a wide range of legal weapons he can continue to kill his people with. In fact, this whole chemical disarmament agreement might even be a mistake. Before the agreement, a US military response was to a certain degree likely, although it would never be approved by UN Security Council because of a Russia and China opposing. The chemical weapons disarmament then came to a reality after US Secretary of State John Kerry stated that the US might not carry out a strike if the Syrians complied. Shortly after, the Russians urged Assad to agree to the terms. This makes it evident to me that Assad is only biding his time. If he manages to win the war before the destruction is complete, which according to plan should be done by the first half of 2014, it would give no reason for anyone to intervene with military force. This is a war that already is in its third year, so I reckon that it is unlikely there is a chance Assad can prevail so quickly. With this deal we are only prolonging the suffering of the Syrian people. And even if Assad would win within the time-frame of the deal, that would mean goodbye to a democratic Syria.
I believe that military intervention is the best course of action, but even so, a war with Syria shouldn’t be handled lightly. The rebels that are opposing Assad are far from a unified bunch. To make matters worse there is a portion of the rebel groups that has ties to al-Qaeda. Fortunately, these groups are opposed by most rebels, but it has led to clashes between rebel groups as well. With this in mind, it is understandably a growing opposition to military intervention. We are just leaving over a decade of war in Afghanistan to what might be a new decade in Syria. Although, I don’t think it will take a decade, but at least years considering these geopolitical complications.
In one of my previous posts I’ve shown a disagreement to the introduction of democracy in Afghanistan because of lack of maturity in the people. I don’t think that’s the case here. Mostly because the conflict sprung from the Arab Spring, a movement solely dedicated to introducing democracy to several Arab countries. Wanting democracy shows a certain amount of maturity, a readiness to fulfill the requirements for a successful democratic nation. I think the reason why democracy has succeeded in the Western hemisphere is because it happened through revolutions started by the people itself, and this is why I think democracy will succeed in Syria as well once the Assad regime is overthrown.
The only thing missing now is the necessary military interventions to make this come true. Sure, a military intervention will cause casualties, and probably even civilian, but I believe that a prolonged civil war would heavily outweigh the casualties caused by the international forces. It’s about time we saved Syria.