Saturday, September 07, 2013

The Complexity of the Syrian Situation

Photo: SHARE if attacking Syria doesn't make sense to you!

As I said when I posted this on Facebook, I hate these repetitious pictures that show up with different quotes on them (and here I add: especially the Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka one). But this one poses an interesting, if reductionist (as it was pointed out) question about the logistics of the Syrian situation.

My friend Ray Harris responded with this:
Ah jeez - if it were as simple as this the US, NATO would have intervened earlier. The use of chemical weapons breaches international law and it is up to the international community to act, otherwise international law is meaningless.

Nor would the US
necessarily be fighting on the same side as al Qaeda. They would simply be punishing one side for a clear violation of international law.

The rebel side also includes people interested in a democratic Syria - unless you forgot that Assad is a Ba'athist dictator.
Ray also posted this and tagged me on it so that I would see it:
I am getting massively bored with all the simplistic, reductionist responses to the situation in Syria. It is extremely complex people. It is NOT like Iraq. It is NOT like Afghanistan. It is like Syria. It is NOT only because of a gas pipeline (although resources are always a factor). Nor does the US have any specific interest in Syria. But in case you have forgotten. Someone did use chemical weapons (both Hussein and Assad belong to the Ba'athist party and Hussein used chemical weapons on Kurds). And the use of chemical weapons is a clear breach of international law and someone has to police international law, otherwise it is meaningless.

Are the US hypocrites? Of course, but everyone is hypocrite. What of the Russians and Chinese?

There is a lot of propaganda flying around at the moment. Pro-Assad propaganda, pro-rebel propaganda, Iranian propaganda blaming Israel, socialist alliance propaganda blaming US imperialism, and so on and on.
After a bit of thought, this is my reply and my current (muddled) understanding of the complexity of the situation:
Ray, I get your perspective and I think, at the same time, that the situation is so absurd that is requires mockery to avoid simply giving up.

It's clearly NOT simple - if it were, there would be no hesitation on the part of Obama in launching
a "punishment" - and the fact that both Britain and Germany, among others I presume, have opted out of a NATO attack, or even a "coalition" attack, is telling.

Obama has effed this up so thoroughly with his line in the sand nonsense and then his refusal to launch a strike that it is laughable. At the same time, he has good reason not to launch a strike - it likely will bring in Iran and probably Russia (who has already sent a fleet of warships into the Persian Gulf) - then we have WWIII in the Middle East.

The Syrian Rebels are also a mixed bag - some who want democracy, some who want Islamic law, some who are al Qaeda, and probably some other groups as well. We are probably supporting the rebels covertly at this point, but what will we end up with if they succeed in toppling Assad? Will we get Syria's version of the Muslim Brotherhood, and then have a messed up situation like Egypt, where we support the military in staging a coup to oust the first truly democratically elected president in decades?

That whole region is an example of what happens when we impose somewhat arbitrary lines and values (unsuccessfully) where there had been none prior, or at least not in the same way. It is ludicrous to think that creating nations at a bargaining table will put to an end to centuries of tribal hatred and a general sense among most Arab peoples of having been the oppressed - same thing happened on the African continent when the European territories demanded and took their independence. Witness Sudan - one tribe gains political and military power and then sets about eliminating the opposing tribe(s).

There is a huge difference between the fall of the Austro-Hungarian empire following WWI [Ray mentioned this in a comment] and what we are seeing now. Those European nations were already developed and they (mostly) were not a collection of tribes and/or religious sects. More importantly, the West kept military bases in many countries as a kind of reminder not to get out of line (weak colonialism), but this did not happen when the European nations carved up the Middle East.

The complexity of the situation, which I suspect you get much more than I do, is well over the capacities of our current elected leaders to deal with effectively. This is obvious.

International law, by the way, IS meaningless in a practical sense. As long as Russia and China are permanent members of the Security Council at the UN (with veto power), things like this will never be punished by the UN. The US cannot be the policeman of the planet - and the American citizens are overwhelmingly opposed to our trying to do so.

After all the words I have just typed, I have barely scratched the surface of the complexity of this situation.

The reality here on Facebook is that Americans think in sound bites, so it's no wonder we post simplistic, reductionist statements about complex events - it's what our media has trained us to do. I'll bet very few people will have read this far . . . a picture with a trite quote is much easier to digest and simply agree/disagree. But this part of it is a whole other discussion . . . .
Post a Comment