Since March of 2011, there has been growing unrest and bloodshed in Syria as mostly the mostly Sunni population has begun to demand that Assad’s regime fall. In recent days, if you weren’t all caught up in Whitney Houston’s funeral, you would have seen the footage from another funeral – the one in Syria that turned into a protest and then Assad’s security forces opened fire on the mourners.
Unlike the Arab Spring in Egypt and Libya, the matter of intervention in Syria is much more complicated for the rest of the world. For the first time in a long while, even the Arab League spoke out against Assad, first offering a proposed solution that would allow him to step down from power and a multi-identity government to be in place within two months but, Assad having simultaneously agreed to the plan and dismissed it by increasing the violence of oppression, they chose to vote for sanctions. The Arab League even went as far as to call for the UN Security council to intervene. The council, who came up with their own proposal, was rendered powerless by a block veto from Russia and China. No one on the international front, it would seem, has authority or consensus on how to intervene in the growing crisis.
A crisis that has left over 5,000 civilians and 2,000 military members dead. The country, already impoverished after 48 years of “emergency rule” is suffering even more. In a highly unusual turn of events, the Red Cross has spoken out publically to acknowledge they are in talks with all sides in Syria to try to negotiate a cease-fire to allow aid to get through. The Red Cross, in the form of the Red Crescent, is currently the only international aid group present and active in Syria. The ICRC typically makes no comment about the state of any negotiations that they are involved in but the concern is so great that Syria will devolve into a civil war that the ICRC is raising its voice.
There are three reasons that you should pay attention to what is happening in Syria and the international response to it. None of them has to do with oil, let me get that out of the way.
The first is obvious – Syrians have lived and suffered under a dictatorship for far too long. Out of a sense of compassion and brotherhood, one should be at least minimally involved in monitoring the situation. The tactics that Assad’s Security Forces have used to oppress the population are beyond appalling.
The second reason has to do with the last sentence of the paragraph above. In this rising age, there is no room for despotic leaders and gross violations of human rights. There is also a growing resistance to the use of sanctions and force to topple governments. Libya may be the last of the “easy military choices” that we see. The reason for this comes from the fundamental attitudes of what are considered the rising super powers in the world – and no, the super powers are no longer seen as China or the US. The rising power nations are Brazil, India and South America. All of these countries have fairly recent histories of both living under regimes and suffering the process of being “freed” by the traditional western approach of sanction and might. In then having to free themselves from western control, they have preferred to use mediation and diplomacy. These “softer” methods, while seemingly not allowing for as swift a change in a country, do allow that country to change without destroying the economy and causing further human rights violations against the people. The power three are moving closer and closer towards the kind of solid alliance we are also seeing now between Russia and China. While the three have supported the initial UN decision, they did it with a lot of foot dragging. As this triad matures, there will be a radical shift in how the international community responds to crisis and a shift towards viewing human rights violations as a greater crisis then that of economics or military issues. It is in their recent history, it is in their blood. Our (the US) next few presidents better damn well be on the same page or we are going to find our standing and effectiveness on the global stage even further eroded.
The last reason, and this is important, is that both Russia and China vetoed the UN call for intervention. China then went on to proclaim that the West was encouraging a civil war in Syria. This is most likely true, but not well thought out on the West’s part. The Arab League gets why a civil war in Syria would rock the stability of that area – there is no way a civil war would be an “us vs. them” situation but would quickly become a multi-fractioned sectarian war – with Assad and democracy forgotten and old hatreds running high. This kind of shattered standing would destabilize the region by allowing other extremist groups to gain even more presence and power. Rightly, the Arab League wishes to avoid that.
Russia wants Syria stable for two reasons, they are strongly connected to them economically and Syria is Russia’s only strategic ally in the region. She is a necessary point of entry for Russia.
Now China…China on the other hand does not have a whole lot to do with Syria except in one aspect – like North Korea, Syria is one of the few totalitarian regimes left in the world. Both Russia and China have opted out of the growing discussion of the importance of human rights that the rising super three are pushing to the front and are pulling back and stacking up stones in the wall. If there is a totalitarian regime in trouble anywhere you can bet China and Russia are there to help. They have to. In their own countries, they are brutally silencing any dissent.
The world is beginning to divide in two in a way that is not based upon political or religious ideology, not on economics or military protectionism…but on a sense of global morality. There has been no other time in history that the international community has been shaped by a shared sense of right. Not even during World War II. We would like to think that, but the atrocities of Nazi Germany were not widely known when other countries entered the war.
And an even bigger change that is beginning to influence the world is that violence – whether through actual military might or through damage to a nation’s economy – anything that would constitute a human rights violation against the people more than the regime –is becoming unacceptable as a means of resolving crisis.
All of these reasons combine and pose the question to Americans of, “What kind of leadership are we getting ready to vote in?” Are we going to vote for the old guard and lose our effectiveness on the international stage? Or will we choose a leadership that will be able to become a part of the rising unity of power?
What we do and choose to do an international stage reflects how we also approach our domestic problems. Think carefully. Pay attention. We all have a long way to go.
c.2012 Cassandra Tribe All Rights Reserved