Intervention remains a word that causes many diplomats to gasp. To what extent does intervention become an occupation and is there a point where intervention goes beyond a point of feasibility? Politicians have learnt to live with the consequences amidst the tides of history of whether to intervene within a country’s affairs. The demise of the Somali state was exacerbated by the White House’s decision to remove US troops after the failed ‘Black Hawk Down’ mission. The UN’s inertia in 1994 only led to greater intensity of killings in Rwanda. Yet, politicians know all too well of the risks that military action can ensue. The toxic-effect of the US-led invasion in Iraq in 2003 and the on-going stalemate in Afghanistan continue to poison the well of intention.
For over 18 months, the battle between the Assad regime and anti-government rebels has turned Syria into a warzone. Only recently Syria could be described as one of the most stable nations in the region, yet today it has the capacity to create an all out war in the Middle East. The reports of mass artillery bombardments in the cities of Homs and Aleppo, plus the massacres of women and children is creating a humanitarian disaster. With estimates of over 25,000 deaths, possibly more, is a foreign-led intervention an ideal proposition for the situation or is it bound to make the situation worse?
So far, the diplomatic efforts have produced little. Syria’s historically strongest ally, Russia, has continuously refused to back sanctions at the UN. A Libyan-style intervention or arming of opposition forces is deemed impossible. Yet what other solutions remain? The West’s idea that Russia could offer Assad and his inner circle political immunity in Moscow was voted down too. To what extent are we prepared to turn a blind eye to justice in the interest of peace and the deaths of fewer? Do we reach a threshold where justice becomes immaterial?
Will he stay or will he go?
Syria has not signed the International Criminal Court’s treaty and therefore as things stand, Assad can face no international court. However; it is true of anti-government troops as well. They may say they are killing in the name of freedom, but no one can deny the massacres that have taken place on either side. The original protests that led to children having their fingernails removed have led to torture and summary executions. What they may perceive as ‘natural justice’ on the battlefield cannot be translated as humanly dignified. The country is systematically combusting, as are the rules that most humans would see as sacred.
From a diplomatic perspective, is it simple to purely blame Russia for blocking resolutions? Whilst no one can ignore the atrocities, who’s not to say that on previous occasions other countries, particularly in the West, have protected their own interests. There is a degree of old-school Cold War politics. One could argue why Sri Lanka or Israel haven’t had any of their politicians in the dock, these instances on paper show clear breaches of human rights or crimes against humanity, yet impunity remains the watch word. There are crimes and no one likes to see criminals to evade justice, but Syria and Assad wouldn’t be the first to escape the net.
This war, as things stand, has more to come, and who knows how long for. The fact Kofi Annan left his job as peace envoy shows how difficult it is to overcome. If Assad already knows what could wait, then who is not to say he will go out in glory as Gadaffi tried. Who’s not to say that a quarter of a million more people may die through chemical weapons? Then again, if he is brought to justice then how does one prove the atrocities? There are very few journalists and do they have any proof? Not all news coming out of the country can be verified.
Be sure, Assad is resolute but is weak. The question is what do you do about it?