Syria – Between Iraq and a hard place.

Something must be done.

Coat of arms of Syria -- the "Hawk of Qur...
Coat of arms of Syria — the “Hawk of Qureish” with shield of vertical tricolor of the national flag, holding a scroll with the words الجمهورية العربية السورية (Al-Jumhuriyah al-`Arabiyah as-Suriyah “The Syrian Arab Republic”). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Something must be done about Syria,” is the repeated cry from politicians of various political persuasions. what divides them is what can be done, what it is ethical to do and what to do.

On a national level there are big differences. Of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council the split is two to three between the countries that support the Syrian government, Russia and China, and those who support the Syrian opposition, USA, France and UK. As each of these countries has a veto, there seems to be little chance of an agreement there.

And within nations there is division. The UK government has been recently defeated in a vote in the House of Commons on there being a military strike against the government forces. President Obama of USA is taking his plans to Congress for a vote early next week. He is by no means sure of winning.

Something must be done.

“Something must be done, and the only alternative to doing nothing is military strikes.”  So said a British politician yesterday who was bemoaning the fact that what he wanted had been defeated in Parliament. But is it black and white? I can see at least six options.

  1. Do nothing.
  2. Send in a military strike with the intention of regime change.
  3. Send in a military strike force with no intention of changing Syria’s government.
  4. Arm the Syrian opposition.
  5. Send in a peace keeping force similar to the force sent in tho the war between the former Yugoslav republics in the 1990s.
  6. Send relief to the Syrian refugees in Lebanon, show the people we care for them.
  7. Something else.

These all have drawbacks, but here’s my take on them, in order of badness as I see it.

4. Arm the opposition.

This to me is the worst thing we could do. Those opposed to Assad and his government are united only in their opposition to him. If Assad were removed the differences between the different groups which opposed him would appear. And they’d be armed. By us. The civil was becomes even more uncivil. If Russia or China respond by similarly arming the government side it would be even worse. Even without Russia or China aiding Assad, this is even worse than….

1. Do nothing.

Being able to do something and sitting on the sidelines. This is not an ethically sound alternative.

2. Send in a military strike with the intention of regime change.

Between Iraq and a hard place.

Like Iraq before 2003, Syria has a Ba’athist government. Several countries, led by USA, UK and Australia invaded in 2003 and removed Sadam Hussain from power. Some see this as a totally wrong action, but I’m not so sure. There my be unrest still in the country, but at least it is not the Iraqi government that is doing the terrorism any more. A worst case scenario is that Russia or China could come in on the side of Assad.

So this is a better option than doing nothing. But there are better alternatives…

3. Send in a military strike force with no intention of changing Syria’s government.

This is the proposal that the British government has been defeated on in the last week. Its weaknesses are that although no regime change has been mooted, just how this would be achieved in practice does not seem to have been mentioned.

I am against all the above courses of action or inaction. I am more positive about the remaining two:

6. Send relief to the Syrian refugees in Lebanon, show the people we care for them.

This is good as far as it goes, as it shows the Syrian people that we are concerned about them. Unfortunately it does not help the far greater number of Syrians still in Syria, nor does it let the refugees return home. But at least it is a start, and you’ve got to start somewhere.

I’d follow this up with…

5. Send in a peace keeping force similar to the force sent in tho the war between the former Yugoslav republics in the 1990s.

There are signs that Syria may, if nothing is done, split into former Yugoslav style republics if nothing is done (Time Magazine in July last year, The Guardian last Friday). Before it gets this bad, and from news I can see coming out there is nothing in Syria as bad as the Serb/Croat ethnic cleansing of the 1990s, it would, in my opinion be a good idea for the UN to send in a peacekeeeping force as they did in the former Yugoslav republics. If the UN can’t do it NATO, with the help of some arab nations would be acceptable.

So that’s my take on it, based on what I can see in news reports and my understanding of recent history.

Something must be done.

Yes, something must be done, but it is better to look at the options and do the right thing eventually than to do the wrong thing in haste.

——————

This blog was in response, and mostly in agreement with the recently published Something must be done… on Nick Baine’s Blog.


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