Western military intervention in Syria would be a disaster

As the hell of Syria’s ongoing and increasingly intractable internal conflict continues to play out, the announcement by newly installed US Secretary of State John Kerry that the US is to step up its support for the Syrian opposition with $60 million in ‘non-military’ aid should leave nobody in any doubt that the day of western military intervention in the conflict fast approaches.

The British government is also eager to step up support for the Syrian opposition, as attempts to topple the current regime by force shows no sign of succeeding without significant intervention.

At the beginning of January a figure of 60,000 was unveiled as the most up to date and accurate assessment of the number of people killed since hostilities erupted in the country in early 2011.

The US NGO which came up with this figure, resulting from an investigation into the conflict commissioned by the UN, is called Benetech. Benetech’s sponsors, listed on its website, include the National Endowment for Democracy, the Soros Open Society Institute, and the US Department of State.

Regardless, the western media carried the results of Benetech’s investigation at the top of its reports and broadcasts without any analysis of their provenance or this particular NGO’s sponsors. It speaks to the politically-loaded coverage that has been the norm when it comes to this conflict from the very beginning.

But whether the number killed in the Syrian conflict is 60,000 or not, the thousands who have been slaughtered, the tens of thousands more maimed, traumatised, and/or forced to flee their homes, constitutes a human catastrophe of monumental proportions, one that stands as an indictment of the West’s role as an active participant in its support for a polyglot opposition that includes medievalist religious fanatics intent on fomenting a sectarian bloodbath, whose conception of a functioning society involves dragging the country back to the seventh century. In this they are being ably supported by the Saudis and Qataris, who’ve been funnelling weapons and military equipment to them via Turkey.

What cannot be ignored when it comes to the Syrian conflict is its role in the wider geopolitical struggle that is being waged over the future of region between the US and its allies on one side, and Russia and China on the other. It is a conflict over US efforts to maintain a status quo of unipolarity when it comes to global power and influence, with Russia and China increasingly determined to create a multipolar alternative.

The so-called Arab Spring, begun in Tunisia in late 2010, has been hijacked and usurped by western powers which collectively have acted to control and manipulate its trajectory with the aim of maintaining western hegemony over a region first carved up by them after the First World War. Military intervention in Libya, continued pressure being exerted against Iran, continuing support for Israeli efforts to crush Palestinian resistance to its ongoing settler colonial project, support for Saudi aggression in Bahrain, and now Syria – this is the balance sheet of the West’s recent history of intervention in the region.

With the tenth anniversary of the war in Iraq upon us, and the litany of carnage and mayhem it has left behind, events in Syria take on an added importance, especially for the current regime in its struggle to prevent what will certainly be Iraq-style sectarian blood-letting should an opposition which includes assorted foreign and domestic jihadists succeed in toppling it.

Russia’s determination to continue supporting the Syrian regime, which along with Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon constitutes an axis of resistance to western domination, will now be tested further in light of the US decision to ramp up its support for the opposition. Interestingly, just prior to the US and British announcement of increased aid to the opposition, the Russians were engaged in another effort to initiate dialogue with the Syrian opposition and the Syrian regime, after Assad announced that he is ready to talk to all parties, including armed groups, who want dialogue to end the conflict.

The extent of the violence that is taking place in the country reflects the stakes involved. As already stated, Iraq’s fate and the carnage let loose in Libya after the toppling of Gadaffi cannot but be a key motivating factor when it comes to the Syrian army’s attempts to crush the insurgency, while the opposition knows that it can effectively leverage the West’s support given the primacy of the region to its geopolitical interests.

By this point there should be few who still believe that the West is motivated by any noble motivation of spreading democracy to the Arab and Muslim world. On the contrary democracy, human rights, peace and stability – these are nothing more than age-old canards spouted as justification for the hegemonic policies that have bedevilled the southern hemisphere for generations.

Indeed it would be hard to come up with a better explanation and interpretation of the West’s policy towards the Middle East, beginning with Iraq ten years ago and currently ongoing in Syria, than the words spoken by an American major after the destruction of a village during the Vietnam War.

“It became necessary to destroy the village in order to save it.”

16 comments on “Western military intervention in Syria would be a disaster

  1. prianikoff on said:

    Covert military aid from the Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey has been supplied to the Syrian rebels all along.
    This has strengthened the right-wing militarist elements in the opposition.
    Their terrorist methods have alienated large section of the population and led to a mass exodus of refugees.
    But they’ve been unable to overthrow Assad’s government.

    So now the Western powers are seeking an end-game by openly supplying weapons.
    One of the factors behind this is inter-imperialist rivalry between the EU and USA.
    But they’re agreed on the need to contain and roll back the “Arab Spring”.

  2. The starting point for looking at what’s happening in Syria should be how we support a popular movement to overthrow a murderous dictatorship. The studied neutrality of much of the left on this issue has contributed in a small way to the growth of the reactionary currents in the movement against the regime. They are seen to be effective and are accessing material support and weapons. There was a time when they left would have rallied round such a movement.

    On the question of imperialist intervention there’s an irony in John’s juxtaposition of this piece and the Bobby Sands item. Irish republicanism was never shy about taking support from imperialists. They got guns from the Germans during the First World War and no one on the radical left has criticised them for doing so in the intervening century. At the very least we should assume that Syrians fighting Assad have the same entitlement. It’s unlikely the the intentions of German imperialism then were any more noble than those of Britain are today.

    We know that the Russians and Iranians are determined to support the ongoing slaughter of Syrian revolutionaries. The fact that they are obliged to take material support from imperialism is a secondary question and our focus in the imperialist states should be on backing those fighting the dictatorship.

    In the video interview below Gilbert Achcar goes into this in a lot more depth.

    http://socialistresistance.org/4796/syria-intervention-and-the-arab-revolution-video

  3. Morning Star reader on said:

    Memo to Liam:
    1. The Syrian rebels are not a national liberation movement fighting an imperialist government of occupation.
    2. Syria is not an imperialist power.
    3. The Syrian state’s foreign policy has been one of opposing imperialist power in the Middle East.
    4. The main imperialist powers want to see the Syrian government overthrown and have been arming the rebels accordingly, especially through their NATO surrogate Turkey.
    But apart from that, yes, the struggle in Syria is almost an exact replay of the Easter Rising and the Irish War of Independence, and the Syrian rebels armed by imperialist and Islamist powers are almost an exact replica of the Irish Volunteers, the Citizen’s Army and the original Irish Republican Army.
    Sheesh!

  4. Liam: The starting point for looking at what’s happening in Syria should be how we support a popular movement to overthrow a murderous dictatorship.

    You mean foreign backed jihadists with a propensity for beheading and slaughtering ‘apostates’ on a grand scale?

    Liam: The studied neutrality of much of the left on this issue has contributed in a small way to the growth of the reactionary currents in the movement against the regime.

    Who’s neutral? I’m with Assad and the Syrian people against a Saudi and Qatari armed insurgency, supported by the West, comprising religious zealots and obscurantists engaged in barbarism.

    Liam: On the question of imperialist intervention there’s an irony in John’s juxtaposition of this piece and the Bobby Sands item. Irish republicanism was never shy about taking support from imperialists. They got guns from the Germans during the First World War

    This is a false analogy. Ireland at the time of the First World War was a British colony. The Irish people were fighting to liberate their country from the clutches of a colonial power, while the assorted jihadists and murdering bastards that are presently preying on the Syrian people are being backed by the colonial powers and their proxies. This they are doing with the objective of replacing an independent Syria with a puppet regime as part of an overarching project to assert domination over the entire region.

  5. Vanya on said:

    When I read stuff like that from Liam it just makes me realise how correct my decision was to break even from the much more (relatively) sensible form of Trotskyist represented by the USFI. Having said that it does make me wonder what Mandel would be saying on the subject, particularly after the experience of what followed the collapse of the USSR.

    And the idea that the tiny forces of the British left could make a difference to the direction of the rebels in Syria is laughable.

  6. ” I’m with Assad and the Syrian people”. That would be the same Assad who is shelling and using fighter jets against large numbers of Syrian civilians. It’s hard to imagine a socialist defending a dictatorship that would do such a thing in Europe and it’s unfathomable why such an attitude can be applied anywhere else in the world. I’d take it as a given that if one were in Syria one would be trying to bring down a minority sectarian government of mass murderers.

  7. John on said:

    Liam: That would be the same Assad who is shelling and using fighter jets against large numbers of Syrian civilians.

    It depends where you source your information from. We are told that the SNA are purposely shelling civilians, just as we were assured that Gaddafi’s forces were about to murder innocent civilians in Benghazi, hence NATO’s intervention.

    I would have hoped ‘socialists’ living in the West might have learned something from that episode. Sadly not, it appears.

  8. Liam: Assad who is shelling and using fighter jets against large numbers of Syrian civilians

    Oh for sure, the weapons fired by the government forces in Syria only hit civilians.
    Whereas the the Western & Saudi/Qatari- backed forces presumably never kill civilians, even when they detonate huge car bombs in the cities.

    Liam, as someone who claims to be a socialist, do you not feel a need to raise your level of analysis from that of a pro-NATO cartoon?

    Liam:a minority sectarian government of mass murderers.

    By ‘minority sectarian’, I assume you mean that the Syrian government only represents the Alawites, who are perhaps 12% of the population.

    Were that the case, it would be hard to imagine how the government has survived so many months of civil war in which the opposing side is openly & practically supported by the wealthiest states in the region as well as all the major advanced capitalist powers, and is supplemented by foreign ‘jihadi’ fighters.

    There can be little doubt that the Syrian Government has the support of a very substantial number among the Sunni majority, as well as the Christian & other minorities.

  9. Vanya on said:

    Liam, taking a side in a conflict doesn’t mean you have to support the means used by those whose cause you support. After all, I can well remember people (not many of them mind) trying to get the Troops Out Movement to condemn Irish republicans for setting off bombs in Britain before the IRA ceasefire, and those same people were firm their support for troops out and a united Ireland.

    The point is that is that an armed conflict is taking place in which thousands of people are suffering. If it’s worth that suffering to put

  10. prianikoff on said:

    In this case I tend to agree with “Morning Star Reader”, Liam’s analogy with Ireland is flawed because the Assad regime in 2013 can’t be compared to the British Empire in 1914.
    But it’s not simply a question of who has weapons.
    Assad’s section of the Baath party is the pragmatic pro-market wing that gained ascendancy after 1967.
    Were it being opposed by forces to its left there might be a case for supporting the armed insurgents.
    In terms of the stated programmes of the leading opposition groups, that simply isn’t the case.

    Another take is here:-
    http://www.marxist.com/what-the-assad-regime-was-and-what-it-has-become-1.htm

  11. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    People with NATO, Saudi/Qatari and perhaps even Israeli sponsors are unlikely to have motivations that even the most deluded pseudo-left cretin could term socialist.

    “Irish republicanism was never shy about taking support from imperialists. They got guns from the Germans during the First World War and no one on the radical left has criticised them for doing so in the intervening century. At the very least we should assume that Syrians fighting Assad have the same entitlement. It’s unlikely the intentions of German imperialism then were any more noble than those of Britain are today.” Yeah, we heard this kind of thing from the SWP in 2011 re Libya. Of course, Irish Republicans applied the same principle to WW2, when there were limited contacts and cooperation between them and the Third Reich. I am pretty sure the “radical left” had criticisms then, but Irish Republicans not looking a gift horse in the mouth in one war led to them not doing so in the other, even though the gift horse had a swastika on it. Not a good road to go down.

    With attitudes like Liam’s, I am inclined to wonder whether the USFI would be “shy” about, say, offers of money from pro-imperialist NGOs in return for acting as NATO mouthpieces in the Middle East. Because it certainly doesn’t look like it. The “Fourth International” seems capable of such chicanery.

  12. Liam: ” I’m with Assad and the Syrian people”. That would be the same Assad who is shelling and using fighter jets against large numbers of Syrian civilians. It’s hard to imagine a socialist defending a dictatorship that would do such a thing in Europe and it’s unfathomable why such an attitude can be applied anywhere else in the world

    Liam, there is a WAR going on, and Syria is
    being INVADED by outside forces, with agendas
    of their own, that have nothing to do with the
    welfare of the Syrian people, and that changes
    things.

    Would you DENY the right of the Red Army to
    use artillery in civilian areas, during the Second
    World War, when they were fighting off an
    invasion by Hitler’s troops ?

    Why is there NO mention of the indiscriminate
    car bombings, that are being inflicted on the
    people of Damascus, in your argument ?

    You are using abstract arguments about who has
    the right to do what, rather than attempting to
    understand what is ACTUALLY going on in
    Syria.

    That kind of guff might go down very well in the
    United Nations, but it is NOT Marxism !!!

    The left does not UNCONDITIONALLY support
    uprisings (or invasions) against existing governments.

    It depends on who is doing it, and what they are
    trying to achieve.

    If the Assad government falls in Syria, the political
    agenda will NOT be set by the local opposition who
    started the uprising, it WILL be set by the people
    who can count on virtually unlimited arms and funding
    from outside, and it will turn into even MORE of a
    bloodbath than it is at the moment.

    For all your ‘sophisticated’ arguments, the problem is
    that you can’t tell the difference between a CONTRA
    and a SANDINISTA !!!!

    If this is the level of political ‘logic’ that the ‘Fourth
    International’ has degenerated to in the 21st Century -
    Lev Davidovich must be spinning in his grave !!!!

  13. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    #13 – Yes, with the ideological perspective people like Liam show in the 21st century, they would have considered the Nicaraguan Contras to be “freedom fighters” in the 1980s. Who knows – perhaps some of them at the time really did support the Contras, but the time was not ripe to line up so openly with Ronald Reagan.
    The USFI has long flirted with the trends in the air at the time – studentism in the late 1960s and 1970s, “humanitarian imperialism” now.

  14. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    To add to the previous comment, Youtube has apparently been taking down Syrian “rebel”-made videos of them killing their prisoners. Could this be an attempt to conceal the true nature of these people?

    One video I saw that hasn’t been taken down is from Libya, filmed in 2011 as the Western-backed insurgents were fighting Gaddafi’s forces. They had captured a T-55 tank and were firing its cannon at their opponents. Meanwhile some of them on foot were moving forward slowly, chanting Allahu Akbar at about five-second intervals. Suddenly the tank blew up, and at least one of the “revolutionaries” in the tank went flying through the air, probably killed. It seems the tank’s cooling system had caught fire and exploded. Chanting “god is great” and waving the Koran in the air in 10th century fashion are no substitutes for understanding 20th and 21st military technology, and the Libyan reactionaries then and their Syrian counterparts now probably need all the NATO and Saudi military advisers they get. They also need the Liams of this world to helpfully blur the distinction between reaction and revolution.

  15. Scorpion Frogrider on said:

    Funny how you’re far more willing to hug those vipers close to your bosum when they’re in territory outside Syria.