A Syrian Affair
February 12, 2012 3 Comments
What videos and images are able to get leaked out of Syria to the media are atrocious to say the least. I say “are able to get leaked out” because Syria doesn’t really let in outside journalists. So what see is taken covertly and then somehow smuggled to the outside world. They are images and videos of a nation being torn apart. A ruthless and brutal dictator on the one end who cares nothing for his people on one end and the people of his country who want freedom for themselves. The violence started over a year ago when the Arab world was rocked by mass uprisings by the people of nations as they sought freedom and democracy. It’s been a year since the Syrian people began to rise up, and it’s been a year of nothing but bloodshed.
After the fall of the Ottoman Empire following World War 1, the area that is now Syria belonged to France. In 1920, a short-lived Kingdom of Syria was established but only last a few months as the French regained control. All out revolt was declared on August 23, 1925. Fighting erupted in Damascus, Homs, and Hama. Rebel forces won key victories around Syria. But France was able to send thousands of heavily armed military units to Syria to quell the rebellion (which was lightly armed) which it did in 1927. Syria and France signed a treaty of independence in 1936 and elected its first president under its new constitution, but the government was never recognized as the treaty was not ratified by the French legislature. France fell to the Germans in 1940, and Syria fell under the control of Vichy France until British and Free France forces were able to free it in 1941. Syria again proclaimed independence in 1941, but it wasn’t until 1944 that it was officially recognized as an independent nation.
Even in its own history, the current internal conflict seems familiar. The main town of resistance is Homs. The rebels are lightly armed when compared to the forces they are up against. This time, though, instead of being against a colonial power, they are against their own authoritarian regime. Again, they seeks freedom and democracy that has escaped them by political instability in the years/decades that followed their initial independence. The people wish to be a part of the international community rather than set apart from it and isolated as their leaders have done. With the rise of the Arab Spring in 2011, they saw that millions supported the same thing all around them. And as one authoritarian regime after another collapsed, they saw the true potential of what they had within themselves. No longer were they going to wait for such change. They were going to be the instruments of it.
So what’s happened? Why has it gone so wrong? In 2011, a coalition of UN forces converged on Libya to prevent a mass murdering of rebel forces there by the army of Libya… under the command of Gaddafi. First, it was just to prevent the slaughter of millions of people in the town of Bengazi. That quickly turned into a force that would assist the rebel forces in beating back pro-Gaddafi forces. (see related entry) The coalition never put soldiers on the ground and just used airpower to assist the rebels, and the US had only a minor role in helping. Already at this time, the people of Syria were already fighting against the Syrian army, but said that the outside world should not get involved as they were doing in Libya. The countries of the world agreed… since they hadn’t been involved directly in Tunisia, Egypt, or even in Yemen (where the change of leadership is still underway). If only the people then knew how bad things would end up being now.
As the violence has escalated, and as civilians are now being targeted as well, the rebels are now asking for outside intervention. First came the Arab League… which I firmly believe needed to be the first international organization to attempt anything. We already have a bad enough reputation in the area. When they failed, it then came to the UN… again, as it should. A resolution was brought forth that was sponsored by the Arab League but it would end up being vetoed by Russia and China. Russia has ties with Syria dating all the way back to 1956 when Russia was the Soviet Union after the Suez Crisis. Even today, Russia is still sending military equipment to the Syrian army.
So now with the UN resolution dead, and Russia still vowing to veto any resolution that is brought up, what can the next steps be. We can try to shame the country (and countries if you include China though their support may waiver with a different resolution) in the international community, as we are currently attempting to do. We can shut down the Syrian embassies around the world and isolate the regime even more… which has already started being done. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) in the US has called for the US to arm the rebels of Syria. Though it could put the rebels on a more even keel with the Syrian army, could it escalate this from just an armed rebellion to an all out civil war. This reminds me of a time when the French government began arming certain American rebels who were in a fight to free themselves from a monarchy. Without that French involvement, could the Americans rebels have won their independence? Unfortunately, history doesn’t allow us to see the “might have beens”. So might the rebels of Syria need the same kind assistance that we once needed? During our Libya involvement, international governments began to officially recognize the rebel government as the official government of Libya. So is it possible that the US and other nations could recognize the rebels in Syria as the official government of the nation?
Whatever the path ahead might be, one thing is very clear. The world must take notice of events here and action must be taken. I do believe that revolutions within countries are internal and aren’t always in need of outside assistance and other nations shouldn’t necessarily become involved within those internal conflicts. But when those revolutions escalate to the types of mass killings as we are now witnessing in cities like Homs, we must come together and put a stop to it. We already did it in Libya in 2011 before such atrocities could take place, and we must do it now in Syria as they are already well underway. The people of Syria have the right to determine their future and the future of their nation. They have the right to freedom and democracy as all people do. As the leader of the free and democratic world, we must find a way to help (without putting our army in the middle of it… same tactic that we used in Libya) and we must galvanize the rest of the free and democratic world to follow our example. If UN resolutions are being vetoed, then we must find other ways. A people are wanting their voice to be heard and to be in control of their own destiny. This is no different than when we sought our own independence from Great Britain. We needed international help in the same way the Syrian rebels do now. The question is… are we going to listen as someone once listened to us? Will the international community intervene before it’s too late… before it becomes genocide?