Intervention in South Sudan versus Syria
There is a certain degree of hypocrisy to fact that the UN was able to send Peacekeepers to the recently formed South Sudan in response to growing violence. Those in Syria have experienced far worse violence for far longer while their violence started as a result of the current leadership choosing to violently crackdown on protestors. While the major distinguishing factor seems to be the fact that UN Peacekeepers were already in South Sudan due to ethnic cleansing on behalf of Sudan, the Syrians and others are certain to see immediate UN action as a slap in the face.
“Cool heads prevail,” is a saying that hints at the need to avoid acting on anger or hysteria. In accordance, the worst time to plan an intervention is not when the intervention is most needed. The reason additional Un Peacekeepers will be able to react to violence in South Sudan is that the mechanism for intervention was already in place; whereas, the International Community continues to fail when it comes to unplanned interventions that require a serious commitment. In many respects, our world leaders are dishonest about the need for intervention, thus organizations like the UN have limited credibility and effectiveness.
Public officials continually say things like this or that situation requires a political solution, not a military solution. In many respects, this is really a means of the International Community rationalizing its inability to honor its self-proclaimed commitments and responsibilities. Politics exists to give actors with conflicts of interests a less destructive course of action versus immediately engaging in mass violence. The reason for the violence in South Sudan and Syria is a failure of politics to deliver satisfactory solutions. Meanwhile, every civil society adhering to political, legal, economic, and other social norms do so because policing organizations add more immediate consequent for those willing to engage in violence.
In Syria, President Assad quickly bowed to US pressure to dismantle this chemical weapons’ arsenal once he felt military action was forthcoming, i.e. the military solution made the political solution an attractive option enough option for Assad to choose it. In South Sudan, the military solution is more of a police solution, thus UN Peacekeepers are there to prevent violence from spreading while a political solution may be facilitated by South Sudanese political leaders and world leaders. In other words, the UN is doing little to exert a military solution onto the situation.
South Sudan is a new country facing short-term hurdles thanks to its history of violence with parent country Sudan and long-term issues that will determine how national produce with impact the Peoples of South Sudan. This latest streak of violence is a step back to those short-term interests instead of a step forward to deal with long-term interests like the dispersion and exploitation of South Sudan’s natural resources. Syria is now a broken country with an established civil society that is in need of a military solution while it will have a serious policing problem once it is time for a political solution.
Where additional military pressure could force Assad to settle Syria’s civil war, South Sudan is best served by a police solution that helps reestablish peace for now. If the situation collapses into a full civil war, the UN must either put enough boots on the ground to force a political solution or remove troops until such a civil fizzles out. Given the widespread instability in countries across the globe, such a commitment is an unlikely option and one that would probably create great political backlash from neglected countries like Syria.
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