Monday, September 9, 2013

US Congress Weighs the Pros and Cons of Military Intervention in Syria

Syrians on both sides of the civil war have weighed in on the debate in Congress about whether to support President Obama’s call for a limited military strike. The rebels and Bashar al-Assad supporters are deluging members of Congress with various media pleading their case. Supporters continue to claim that Assad forces didn’t use the sarin gas and emphasise the danger of the US effectively supporting Al Qaeda.

Rebels insist the gas was used by Assad forces, and continue to plead for assistance against a tyrant who reigns undemocratically and massacres his own people with impunity. 

The problem for the West is that there isn’t enough balanced information about who makes up the rebel forces. There’s a lot of media coverage now on those rebels who torture and murder prisoners in the most horrific ways, which has created an idea that all the rebels are vicious thugs who don’t deserve any assistance at all from the West. Either that or they're completely dominated now by Al Qaeda.

Whatever the truth is, they've been fighting a losing battle from the start in their attempts to convince the West that they need help. A lot of Westerners believe the Middle East is an uncivilised region, lagging hundreds of years behind the West. They quote treatment of women, the enormous wealth in the hands of the few, and undemocratic governments.

Memories are so short when it’s convenient. Has everybody forgotten that Egypt had the world’s first ever peaceful revolution? And a closer look at the West reveals shocking gender inequalities, increasing seemingly senseless violence, phenomenal wealth in the hands of the few and, in the US, a US Congress that may have been elected but is, if not ruled, at least highly influenced by the military industrial complex. Racism, religious intolerance, religious fundamentalism and white collar crime are rampant as is child pornography. 

People are sinking below the poverty line and those who could help turn their heads away. In fact, in the West that event is so common that we even have a cliché for it. When times are difficult you find out who your friends are.  

It’s not such a civilized picture after all. And yet we cling to the idea that we’re ahead somehow of the Middle East. Well, the reality is we may be in some ways, but in others it’s the same play, just different props and costumes and a different stage. And truth is, when we compare the two, we take the best of the West and the worst of the Middle East. 

So in reality none of that has anything to do with whether Syrian rebels should get Western assistance or not.  

International relationships don't provide much help either. They're so complicated; and we don’t know the half of it; information is probably more often than not fed to the public on a need to know basis, filtered through a radically biased media, either deliberately distorted or simply misinterpreted. 

The permutations of what could happen as a result of different actions by different countries are countless. Imagine this: if President Obama got support from Congress to go ahead with a limited military strike against Assad for using chemic weapons on his own people, it would, oddly put the US in Al Qaeda’s good books, which maybe wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Particularly since Putin’s refusal to back the intervention would put Russia in Al Qaeda’s bad books.  Maybe then Al Qaeda would turn their attention away from the US and focus it on Russia. Which would put Putin out of power.

It's a stretch, I know. But trying to come up with a perfectly sensible and unassailable social or political rationale for intervention or not is pretty much impossible. So in the end it's down to humanity and not setting a very dangerous precedent by letting a maniac massacre his people with impunity and play with chemical weapons and get away with it. And those two arguments are pretty unassailable, I think, no matter which way you look at them.  

I wish there was another way, though. But is it possible to stop a violent man with peaceful means?