Like most in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East, i’m against any U.S. lead military intervention in the Syrian civil war – whether it be airstrikes, or via the further provision of arms to elements within the opposition. One reason for this is because, as various aid agencies have pointed out, both these acts stand a good chance of making an already bad humanitarian situation worse.
Of course, the U.S. et al have been pouring in weapons since at least May 2012 anyway, despite clear warnings that it was ‘fuelling the violence’. That is why I think they have to take their share of the responsibility for the horrific humanitarian situation that currently pertains in Syria, and why those who tend to focus blame on Official Bad Guys like Russia, China and Iran are only telling you half of the story. You can’t tell me the U.S. et al just wanted peace and were reluctant to get involved as they were shipping in thousands of tonnes of arms, including at the very moment the UN were trying to an organise a ceasefire
Nicholas D. Kristof, on the other hand, sees the situation some what differently, as his recent column in The New York Times demonstrates. He doesn’t say so directly, but rather he does it by quoting – approvingly it seems to me – an incarnation of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The argument he presents is as follows:
‘The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the number of dead in the civil war, is exasperated at Western doves who think they are taking a moral stance.
“Where have these people been the past two years,” the organization asks on its Web site. “What is emerging in the United States and United Kingdom now is a movement that is anti-war in form but pro-war in essence.”
In other words, how is being “pro-peace” in this case much different in effect from being “pro-Assad” and resigning oneself to the continued slaughter of civilians?
To me, the central question isn’t, “What are the risks of cruise missile strikes on Syria?” I grant that those risks are considerable, from errant missiles to Hezbollah retaliation. It’s this: “Are the risks greater if we launch missiles, or if we continue to sit on our hands?”’.
Get that? In this view, it is in fact the anti-war movement who are not just pro-war ‘in essence’, but who are also ‘pro-Assad’ ‘in effect’, and resigned to ‘the continued slaughter of civilians’.
This despite there being a strong case to be made that it is in fact Kristof and his ilk – the ‘arm them!’ and ‘bomb them!’ brigade, you might say – who have helped exacerbate and prolong the war, and so the very misery and killing they decry, via their militarist ‘solutions’.
Indeed, some ‘interventionists’ have been writing off the possibilities of a good faith peace process for a while now. As the former UN Secretary General and the former UN Peace Envoy to Syria Kofi Annan put it in an interview with CNN October 2012:
‘ZAKARIA: But, you know, people look at the violence and they say – “The Economist” magazine this week has come out in favor of intervention. But they’re not clear what that means. They say, we should do something. That isn’t the feeling of a lot of people.
ANNAN: Yes, that is the feeling of lots of people and it’s been, also, the feeling of a certain group from the beginning. I mean that is the group that, for example, propagated the idea that any attempt to mediate gives Assad more time to kill. I mean I’ve never heard of anything of the sort. It is a piece of unmitigated nonsense, in effect, saying don’t even try to resolve it peacefully, don’t give the Syrians hope, give weapons and let’s kill each other’.
Yet their remedy, it seems, is still ‘more of the same’. Because military intervention has worked so well to date, hasn’t it?
And at risk of showing the limits of my reading, it does sound all very ‘War Is Peace’ to me.