If they are not yet, today more than ever, all eyes are on Syria. Well, not exactly today, but they soon will be…
Many of us have been following the Syrian uprising from day one: praying for the fate of the innocent children of Daraa who sparked the revolution, fervently denying the revolt was a conspiracy as the Syrian regime wanted the world to believe, disheartened by what parts of the Syrian opposition had become, and grieving for Syrian suffering and the horrors of Ghouta. Today, we all hold our breaths waiting for what would certainly be a dramatic turn of events in the Syrian civil war. For although the U.S. has reiterated its intentions to engage in a “limited” response to the regime’s use of chemical weapons, the aftermath of such an attack will be anything but “limited.”
Yesterday, President Obama made it clear that the U.S. would not stand idle in the face of the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons, but would seek Congressional authorization to do so. Given the British House of Commons vote against intervention, Obama’s move may look like a crazy gamble, but it isn’t. The U.S. administration has put the credibility of its own president on the line and raised the stakes too high to not be almost certain of the Congressional outcome. The contrary would be nothing less than political suicide, something politicians do not commit willingly. And mind you, this isn’t a matter of conspiracy, just pure and simple politics. To me, the strike is coming, only now, we have a clearer idea of when the countdown will begin.
It remains that intervention is not the answer. It may provide a respite to the Syrian people from the horrors of the Syrian regime, but until when? And when has any similar intervention – be it Western or even Arab (both physical intervention or more often political intervention and financial support) – brought a peaceful end to an uprising? Given the huge complexities in the Syrian case, why would we believe any such military solution would succeed in the first place? Besides, those spearheading intervention – most notably the U.S. – have been clear: possible strikes are about punishment for the use of chemical weapons and not regime change. The U.S. administration has further emphasized a strike is also about preserving its own credibility and teaching a preemptive lesson to other rogue states and non-state actors (Iran, North Korea, Hizballah) of the use of chemical weapons.
On the other hand, there are those who strongly oppose intervention because they still support the Assad regime. But not all opposition is the same, others who oppose intervention staunchly oppose Assad himself, yet realize that the results of any strike may be letting loose the floodgates of fiercer fighting and sectarian strife both in Syria and across the region. Before Obama’s most recent speech, the speed with which the U.S. and France appeared to be to strike brought back fearful memories of a simplistic Iraq-styled scenario of intervention, albeit with no physical presence on the ground, and with similarly disastrous consequences in the short and medium-terms.
Pushing a button to release a storm of missiles is relatively easy, but what button could then be used to stop what may come after?
Opposing intervention isn’t about standing against the Syrian people but about fear of the fiercer violence an attack may trigger. It is a way of forcing the West and its allies to learn from its mistakes in the Middle East, whereby military intervention has never provided a long-term and viable solution to the region’s complexities. Opposing intervention is a way for us to refuse any quick-fix action, the consequences of which we, the people of the Middle East will live with and suffer from, which may be as terrible as any civil war.
In ten years time, Syria will be probably looked at as yet another case in which the world opted for an easy way out through a military solution. A political solution seemed too mainstream and complex. The West will be blamed for its empty rhetoric and inaction, as much as the Arab world will be blamed for its hypocrisy and for letting yet another one of its own self-destruct in front of its eyes. I hope I’m wrong…