More From Alder's Ledge

September 7, 2013

A Legacy Of Failure

How The World Left Syria To Burn

This post contains opinions that do not reflect the opinions of all of Alder's Ledge's contributors and writers. They are personal in nature and may be considered offensive to some. We suggest that you read this post with an open mind and consider it polite debate rather than an argument or fact.

We watched in Bosnia as the aggressors were rewarded by UN apathy as the blue hats dragged their feet. The tin star blue hats watched as the Serbs sat up their artillery and began to shell civilians. We were so close to the fight that we could watch the snipers pull their bloody triggers. So damn close that we could watch as another mother took her last breath as she fell in sniper alley. Yet we did nothing to stop the sniper in the first place. Instead we made certain that the Bosnian civilians were disarmed and unable to fight back. Thus making the slaughter possible.

The notion of peace through talking died in Bosnia. Over and over the Bosnians watched as their politicians pleaded with the Serbs to end the war. Over and over again they watched as the Serbs took their brothers and fathers off to die in camps the UN knew about from day one. Peace never came to Bosnia through talking to the tyrant. Instead all the Bosnians got from the fight was a legacy of broken promises and failure.

In Syria the peaceful protests were met with aggression unparalleled by modern fascists. Yet the world turned their eyes away as they hoped their beloved "Arab Spring" would pan out elsewhere. Nobody wanted to imagine that a little resistance to the "change" Obama claimed to inspire would end up like it has today. We didn't want to believe that 100,000 lives (and counting) would be lost to the arrogance of a tyrannical regime.

Had we decided to respond then maybe things might have worked out differently. Just perhaps if the world had decided to intervene then maybe more Syrians would be alive today.

When Libya went to hell the world responded by siding with a group of rebels that we deemed to be the lesser of two evils. We didn't have a bloody clue who we were arming or who were helping to kick Gaddafi out of office. But we took our chance to finish off the old persistent pain in Northern Africa. The thorn in the West's paw was finally removed.

Of course there were anti-war isolationists who wanted to defend their position of zero tolerance for war at all (and any) cost. And the one thing they got in the whole mess that was Libya was that UN/US never put "boots on the ground". Even when the rebels began to slaughter black African civilians as they "liberated" Libya from Gaddafi, we never put a blue hat on the ground. Even as the rebels began committing summary executions in retaliation for the times they suffered defeats at Gaddafi's hands, we never put a single boot on Libyan soil. We maintained our support in the air above while ignoring the atrocities happening below.

If the US does in fact decide to send in a few rockets or jets they will most definitely be committing themselves to a longer war than that of Libya. They won't have the option to keep their precious boots off the bloody soil below. What lay ahead for Syria if America gets involved isn't just war... it will be hell on Earth.

Where We Failed

From the very start in Syria's "civil war" we should have noted who the aggressors were and exactly what war crimes they were committing. At that moment it would had been clear to realize that Assad's regime was willingly attacking it's own people. And from that moment the international community should have begun to act. 

But we didn't...

In March of 2011 the first chance we had at breaking Assad's grip on Syria slipped away. With the initial abuses by Syria's security forces the world should had began applying heavy economic pressure upon Syria. The most direct method would had been to freeze the accounts of Syrian leaders and those actively supporting the regime from the outside. Cutting the regime off from it's supply of money would had gained the attention of even the most hardline supporters of the Assad government. 

Yet we didn't...

From the start Assad has been purchasing the weapons he needed to "restore order" from the Russians. Countless reports have shown that Russian arms companies have been the lifeblood for the struggling Syrian leader. Had these companies faced the economic muscle of the outside world they would have found it hard to justify two years of losses while supporting Assad. But since the pressure was never applied upon the arms companies those would be losses have been translated into massive profits. 

Had Russia faced history making sanctions for it's support of Assad's barbarism the world would had been forced to take notice. If either Western Europe or the United States had found their courage and stood up to Putin the world at large would have had to stop and look. What would have looked like the Cold War erupting after a short intermission would have gotten even Assad's attention as he continued to slaughter his own. 

But again, we didn't...

As the fighting grew and refugees began to pour over the border into Turkey the world had the opportunity to document the war from the outside. Had information been extracted from the refugees methodically and published for all the world to see the war in Syria would have been recorded as starting in early 2011. Instead the "internal struggle" in Syria was routinely sidelined as the world media refused to take the matter seriously and label it for what it was. 

In June of 2011 when Assad laid siege to Jisr al-Shughour and 10,000 refugees almost immediately fled to Turkey the world had another chance. Their stories told the world of a military that was readily placing heavy artillery fire squarely upon civilian homes that had no discernible military significance. They were amongst the first ones to testify that Assad's air force was readily strafing city streets and dropping bombs on public buildings. These were the first ones to tell the world that what was happening behind the curtain wasn't war... this was systematic slaughter.

So where was the world? One word... Weiner.

While the United States and the rest of the West should had been pushing for immediate economic and political retaliation against Assad and his regime, we were focused on congressmen who couldn't keep it in their pants. While we should have been focusing on stopping the flow of conventional weapons into the country we were too focused on trivial sideshows. So while the US was talking about wieners, Assad was purchasing weapons from companies like Rosoboronexport.

Rosoboronexport isn't talked about however since the company has partners all across the world. Making lucrative deals with India, Italy, Malaysia, Brazil, China, France, Kazakhstan, and Peru (just to name a few) the company shows no sign of pulling back. And why should they? The world has shown absolutely no outrage while companies like Rosoboronexport supply the weapons for genocidal regimes across the globe.

As long as companies like this one produce "conventional weapons" for embattled regimes the world has no real say in the matter. If the country buying the weapons feels like using them to kill hundreds of thousands of their own citizens... well that is just up to the country now isn't it?

And that is where the next major failure came when dealing with Syria's barbaric leadership.

The Ultimate "Red Line"

Since the very start of the League of Nations following World War One the world community has battled the question of state sovereignty. In the most simplistic analogy the question can be compared to an apartment building. When one neighbor hears their neighbor beating his wife there is supposedly a question of how and when to intervene. The United Nations (the modern League of Nations) is supposed to act like the cop in this scenario. Yet what if the cop never goes to even check about the supposed domestic violence?

In the world community this has been one of the major problems with the United Nations. In times of blatant abuses committed across the globe the UN has neglected all such incidents unless they cross a border. As long as the beating (killing) is contained to the apartment (country) the UN appears far to willing to ignore the scenario all together. And in many cases the abuses have been tolerated even when the blood starts to pour over national borders.

In Bosnia the genocide was tolerated by simply applying the term "ethnic cleansing". In Rwanda the genocide was tolerated due to the deaths of 11 Dutch blue hats. And in Cambodia the world was happy to ignore genocide since it was just a poor country killing it's own. Containment of the crime seemed preferable to stopping it all together in every case.

This trend however didn't start with the 20th century. One of the main reasons for the United States not signing the Genocide Convention was the fear that our own sins committed against the First Nation would be rehashed. After all, many of those crimes were committed on lands we technically didn't own at the time. And if we could be accused of the crime than why should we go punishing others for the same offense?

At the end of World War Two the United States managed to kill it's conscience by pushing forward the Nuremberg Trials. While we watched Nazis commit suicide rather than face the music over crimes the US had committed in its past, Washington claimed the moral high ground. The hypocrisy of the fact that Washington was (and still is) committing a slow cultural and ethnic genocide of the Native American community wasn't up for question. We were after all punishing a genocide that had spread across borders, seas, and continents.

So why do we hesitate to punish acts of genocide when they occur within the confines of a nation's borders?

Syria's Alawite controlled government has long kept it's boot on the throat of Syria's religious majority. By offering protection through a bolstered military the Assad regime pretended to be protecting the national interest of self-defense. Offering planes, tanks, and germs to guard against the ever lingering "Jewish threat", Assad built up the arsenal he knew he would eventually need to maintain control. All the weapons, all the lies, were just to maintain power.

To the outside world this lie of legitimate interests in protecting Syria's desire for self-determination
of it's own fate seemed almost heroic. Here they had a minority leader placing the rights of all Syria ahead of his own self interest. The flimsy facade was varnished over by the platitudes of weary Western nations. Nobody wanted a repeat of the Yom Kippur War after all.

So while Syria built up it's chemical weapon stocks the West ignored the abusive regime. From as early as 1968 the government of Syria was publicly showing interests in the obtaining and use of a weapon the rest of the world had banned. Syria's increase of interests in the unconventional weapons was ignored in the 80s as the regime began to bolster it's military with chemicals and scuds.

It never occurred to the world to tell Syria no. After all, they hadn't shown any intention to use them across any border (except Israel's). And as long as the weapons were being contained to their own country, why should the world act?

When Iraq and Iran began using chemical weapons in their little recreation of WW1 the world turned a blind eye. However all the while the West and East were supplying the very chemicals that Iraq and Iran needed to keep the blood flowing. Washington didn't even blink when Iraq launched it's al-Anfal campaign against the Kurdish population of northern Iraq. And why should they? That was still technically within Iraq's borders right? And they hadn't complained when the same weapons were used on Iranians...

With Syria the question of national sovereignty was still the issue. The West needed to attempt to chip away at the shell Syria had built around itself. Questioning a state's sensitive attachment to it's ego (national sovereignty) wasn't exactly the way to warm Assad's government up to the "great Satan". And complaining about weapons that Israel is still believed to have wasn't going to help either.

Had the world used sanctions perhaps there would have been a way to work around the egotistical posturing that was taking place between Syria and the West. By limiting the influx of weapons into Syria in both the 20th and 21st century the world could have weakened a regime that we all knew was a danger to sustainable peace. And yet it is in this aspect of applying sanctions and embargoes that the liberal minded war opposing majority gets lost.

Crossing The Line Of State Sovereignty 

When applying sanctions with the intent of crippling a regime and forcing unrest with the long term goal of peace you generally lose the fringe elements on both ends. The idea of causing internal crisis with no clear idea of what comes out on the other side is generally considered interfering rather than intervening. And in cases such as Iran, the United States has proven just how piss poor that strategy works.

In the case of Syria the ideal way to force Assad to either change or leave would had been to reward surrounding states for cooperating with us while forcing Syria into further isolation. It isn't a perfect strategy, but it is far more preferable to the options we are left with today.

In this method the world should not have leaned upon the United States and the UN should have stood up and questioned Syria's state sovereignty. The continued abuse of Syria's own people when seeking a change in their own right to self governance should had been our first response as a world community. In 2008 the world should had spent more time forcing Assad to meet the standards of the international community rather than accept his brutal methods of governance. This would have of course continued the international isolation of Syria from the West. Yet it would have kept the Syrian government in a position where it had no bargaining chips to play.

However the opportunity to political and economic muscle was passed up as France bent over instead.

At that point the world should have begun to stand up to Assad's main cheerleaders in Moscow and Beijing. By implementing roadblocks between the flow of oil, weapons, cash, and chemicals between Assad's main backers the world could have drastically shortened the crisis that we are watching today. This method would have been of course portrayed as the West interfering and playing political brinksmanship with Putin and Assad. Yet the flow of weapons would have at very least been interrupted.

Just as JFK had done with Cuba, the United Nations should have said screw the rules and enforced any measures possible to stop the influx of helicopters and ammunition. Unlike Russia in the 1900's however, Putin would had been more than willing to see just how bold the West really is. And that is where the entire plan goes to hell.

Without the will to play chicken with dictators like Putin the world community can only expect more bloodshed like that in Syria. If the world is not willing to accept some destabilization of countries like Syria in an effort to end the imperialistic aspirations of countries like Russia then the cycle of purges will continue.

Syria should have been pushed to the brink while the world community prepared to bust in the door with the first misstep Assad took. Isolation, deprivation, and the promise of relief being kept just out of reach are all three methods that (while risking war) have the chance of ending in peace.

Of course history doesn't show us this. And for most that have read this far this post is just a bit too far to accept. But all you really have to do is ask yourself if you want to see another Syria? Another Bosnia? Or another Cambodia?

(close enough to watch it all come tumbling down)

The Alternative

Had the UN prepared themselves to shoot anyone from either side that dared cross the line in Bosnia the genocide may have never happened. However the Serbs had seen how blue hats responded to even the slightest hint of violence. It was for this reason that the Serbian guerrillas exercised extreme violence in the face of blue hat observers. The utter lack of fear of reprisal or accountability was blatantly obvious.

The main fear on the part of the UN was getting themselves involved in a shooting match. The idea of having multiple nations in one area where the bodies are bound to start piling up seemed way to far out in right field. Yet it was in their obvious fear of using their guns that the UN showed their lack of commitment to ending the killing.

The one thing history has shown us in Bosnia, and all other such cases, is that no army of savages has ever been stopped by asking them politely.

Kosovo showed the world what brutal aerial bombardment could do to the moral of a ground bound foe. The world watched as jets and rockets filled the air and the Serbian aggressors began their retreat. Digging in, the hardliners waited for their number to be called.

Had the UN ordered ground units into the area to mop up the resistance the Serbs across the map would had taken notice. The will to fight would had been crippled. The desire to die for a cause they had no possibility to achieve would had died right there and then.

No man wants to die so that another man can be oppressed by his blood. We either fight for freedom or we fight because that is the lie they have fed us. For the Serbs the fight for soil would had been far less appealing had they known that the world would not tolerate their genocidal efforts.

But all that requires a world where we are willing to question the morality of imposing ideals of national sovereignty over the ideal of basic human rights. It requires a world where the division between West and East is ignored and abandoned. It requires a world that simply ask what we would do to stop the crime rather than how we are expected to handle it.

Overly Simplistic?

For me the moral obligation to refrain from inflicting pain upon another person has always been thrown out when faced with things I know to be wrong. When faced with watching somebody who is outnumbered and outgunned I have always thrown my hat in on the losing side. Not because I wanted to fight, but because I wanted to end the fight. And once it was over I have always saught to resolve the conflict with words rather than fists.

Those who have read this blog for any length of time know that I (the main author) was a punk growing up. All those years of running around with spikes and chains didn't teach me much, but they did show me that sometimes fighting is preferable to the guilt of not doing so when you should.

Is this view of Syria overly simplistic?

Hell yes.

Is it realistic?

Well that we may never know.

Want to reply to the author of this post? 

Contact him on Twitter: @alders_ledge

Source Documents:
(Not All Sources Listed)

Human Rights Watch


WW4 Report

Africa News Network

International Business Times


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