Syrian rebels, so-called rebels, have helped the British photo journalist Paul Conroy to safety, some of them losing their lives in the process. Laying down your life for someone else is extraordinary, true love as Jesus said. What is going on in Syria, is extraordinarily tragic even by the standards of the 20th & 21st century. The World is looking on, not helplessly, not impotently but nevertheless not doing anything. We (the West) have had our fingers burned by Iraq. The motives for going into Iraq remain unclear even now. But whatever the motives were there can be no doubt that the place has been wrecked as a result of America & the UK going into Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein. It cannot be said that the country is better off without Saddam. It may be. But the whole military operation has turned into a nightmare.
Rebellion has been in the air in the Middle East & North Africa for the past year. But there has been very little change. Most of the régimes remain intact. Most of the practices remain. The recent case in Egypt of the women who had to undergo virginity tests & then the army officer who had it carried being exonerated is extremely depressing.
It’s hard to know what is going in Syria because the uprising seems to be in isolated pockets. Syria is a vast country. It is a country which is both multinational & multi religious. Paddy O’Connell on Broadcasting House on BBC radio4 yesterday, was interviewing a Syrian political commentator living in London. O’Connell said “Syria is a broken country.” The commentator said, “What do you mean by that?” & O’Connell was stumped. He was unable to say anything to back up the claim. The city of Hom, which few of us in the West had ever heard of a year ago, is, it would appear, almost alone in its defiance of Assad. Presumably this is because repression is greater elsewhere than in Hom but it is not certain that Assad doesn’t enjoy some support in the country. And what would follow? Libya seems to be teetering between stability & chaos. It could go either way. The same can be said of Syria.
Libyan rebels were given a lot of military aid. The question is being asked, couldn’t we do the same for the Syrian rebels? But it is more likely that if Syria were given the sort of military aid that the Libyan rebels were given that the country would slide into the same kind of anarchy that has befallen Iraq. There is nothing to be done militarily that would actually help topple Assad. Hopefully pressure from the Arab League, the United Nations & the European Union will persuade him to stand down. But the problem is that he has burned his boats. He knows that were he to stand down he would at the very least face trial at the Hague.
It is not possible to foresee the endgame. But the wonderful people of Syria deserve better.