Syria revolt enters second year as world stands feckless

Juan Cole writes: The world community has failed Syria, just as it failed Rwanda and the Congo, though the human toll in Syria is a fraction of those killed in the African events. Russia and China have used their veto to block any effective United Nations Security Council resolution that might lead to regime change. India has also, unlike the Arab League, opposed any call for President Bashar al-Assad, the Butcher of Homs, to step down.

Those on the left and in the libertarian movement who stridently condemned Arab League and NATO intervention in Libya (which forestalled massacres like the one we just saw in the Baba Amr district of Homs) have been silent about al-Assad’s predations and clueless as to what to do practically. Perhaps they do not care if indigenous dictators massacre indigenous protesters, as long as there is no *gasp* international intervention.

The Baath one-party police state, dominated at the top by the minority Allawite Shiite sect, has deployed armor and artillery to bombard city quarters without regard to civilian casualties. Thousands of innocent civilians are dead at regime hands. Some 200,000 Syrians have had to flee their homes. While defectors from the military have formed a Free Syrian Army that has attacked and ambushed the regular army, these attacks have formed a minor part of the violence. Likewise, bombings by “al-Qaeda,” Sunni Muslim radicals, have been few and far between. Mostly, the violence has stemmed from government troops sniping at peaceful protesters. The protests have often been big, and they have been persistent, but they have predominated in medium-sized and smaller cities away from the capital of Damascus. They are unable by themselves to cause the regime to fall.

Many of the protests are economic, not ideological. In much of rural Syria, a persistent drought has deprived farmers and urban food distributors of enough water. The Baath Party, which back in the 1970s was very good at dams and irrigation works, has been unable to get the water flowing, either because the drought is too severe or because the party has become corrupt and inefficient. Likewise in many of the protesting cities, there are many fairly recent labor migrants from the countryside, whose hopes for urban jobs have been disappointed by the world economic crisis since 2008. Many of the demonstrations have been in working class districts of central cities, suffering most from high unemployment. To dismiss these civilian crowds of workers and farmers as “Salafis” and “al-Qaeda” is bad social science and just regime propaganda.

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5 thoughts on “Syria revolt enters second year as world stands feckless

  1. John Exdell

    This is the same siren we heard on this site, and from Juan Cole, about the urgent need for NATO intervention in Libya. Subsequent investigations have proven that the Libyan NATO intervention has produced another calamity, and one badly motivated, just as it did in Kosovo and Afghanistan. Let’s face it. That there is a disinterested “international community” that can be entrusted with to use military force to protect human rights and develop political democracy is a terrible error.

  2. sanicklaus

    The world does not want to pay for a useless war between Allawites and Sunnits. The time will come for al-Assad. We are not at the end of the history. The consequences of the intervention in Libya was a lesson for the mankind.

  3. Lysander

    John is absolutely correct. He also could add that in Libya we heard stories of “African mercenaries,” “aerial bombardment of peaceful protesters,” “viagra rape” and on and on, all of which turned out to be utterly bogus.

    And while I can see how the neocons can ignore all that, I don’t understand how anti-imperialists like yourself could.

    NATO wants to break Syria up into several small pieces: a large version of Lebanon circa 1985 that cannot press its claim on the Golan and that Israel could invade at will.

  4. dmaak112

    The death toll in the Congo alone is put at millions. Once again, as when he pushed for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Cole is wrong.

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