As US and its allies rally for striking Syria for claimed chemical weapons used by Assad’s regime, I have doubt over how military intervention can help resolve this conflict. Instead, decision to go forward with military solution can be counter-productive. Why?
- Still no clear evidence on who did the “chemical weapon” attacks. Let the UN team do its job and confirm it.
- Always choosing unilateral military intervention, by-passing UN security council, will break international norms and set examples for future abuse by international powers for arbitrary judgement.
- Conflict in Syria is not dead simple like where 99% of people oppose and fighting against one dictator. Remember, if not half of the population supports Assad, at least a considerable minority like at least 15% or more does. There are long-standing division lines across ethnicity and religion such as Shia vs Sunni. As the conflict drags on, on opposition side there are high involvement by jihadists and Al Quaeda terrorists. With lack of moderate and educated mass throughout the history and under dictatorship for a long time, transition will not be easy and can be as chaos as Iraq, even if Assad is gone. Then, ultimately Syrian people will suffer most, and not to mention how much headache and aids will need to flow into rebuilding Syria. Unlike Libya or other resource-rich countries in region, Syria will not be economically strong and thus it can provide seed of anger and dissatisfaction among public for further instability in the country with no end in sight such as in Egypt.
- There is no clear objective on what US can achieve by striking either limited military strike, which wont change equation on the ground, OR full-blown military engagement, which can drag US into another open-ended civil war or Iraq 2.0.
- Think of ramifications for further instability in the region with linked interests by each regional players such as Iran, Israel, Russia, Hizbollah and so on.
- Moral argument against use of chemical weapons is indiscriminate killing of children and civilians. I don’t know how such argument can be different when drone and aerial bombing strikes against Syria can result in huge collateral damage to many more civilians and their lives.
While others might say if we dont strike, then the remaining approach is “do nothing”? Well, no! The viable alternative is to bring both sides in Syria to discussion table and regime change should NOT be a priority in doing so. First and foremost important thing is ceasefire and stopping civilian causality. Both sides need to be convinced for compromise for each party’s needs. International community can engage in Syria by providing humanitarian access further and negotiation.
Given how complicated ethnicity and religious background and rule under long dictatorship, the best we can hope is gradual change toward more democratic society over time through not just political changes, but also equally important socio-economic changes.