The Syrian Civil War: An International Failure or an Example of Unachievable Victory?
The Syrian Civil War has driven world leaders to a new level of frustration with the collapse of a September ceasefire agreement based on increased US-Russian military cooperation. Although allies of Assad and allies of moderate rebels blame the failure on their enemies, the unfortunate reality is that internationally brokered ceasefires in Syria are doomed to failure. The problem is international interests in the Syrian Civil War revolve around the global terrorist threat presented by the Islamic State, yet the Syrian Civil War is, first and foremost, a civil war. The Islamic State is simply a byproduct of civil strife that cannot be squelched, unless a new government, which is supported by the principle conflicting factions, can be formed.
Because Russian-aligned forces support the Assad regime and US-aligned forces support the removal of the Assad regime, the two sides have two conflicting objectives that must be resolved before security threats like the Islamic State can be become a top priority. Looking back on the Iraq War, critics of the US-led effort often focused on the sectarian violence that continues to plague the Middle Eastern country to this day. US victory against terrorists and insurgents could not be achieved in Iraq, because Iraq was experiencing a civil war that had to be settled internally over a period of years to decades. External intervention was seen as ineffective and, potentially, a means of perpetuating the conflict. In the heat of the Iraq War, however, total victory was deemed indispensible, even though it was unachievable. The same is true in Syria.
Prior to the US invasion, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq represented a problem for the International Community and a failure of the International Community to fulfill its principle mission, yet Iraq was not considered a strategic priority, until it was made a priority. The Islamic State threat and the Syrian Refugee Crisis make the Syrian civil war an international security threat, but it is not the only threat nor do these facts mean the International Community can resolve the conflict. Recognizing the long running conflict over Kashmir between India and Pakistan, the South China Sea Conflict, the never-ending Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, the Ukraine Crisis, and numerous others, it is clear that the failure to resolve the Syrian Civil War is just an example of the International Community’s failure to resolve conflicts around the globe.
The failure of this particular secession of hostilities in Syria involved strikes against Assad regime forces by the US and Russian strikes against aid groups. Both the US and Russia have denied malicious wrongdoing. Both have also blamed each other for the collapse of the ceasefire. In a move that is likely to escalate the proxy war between the US and Russia, Russia gas also sent its only aircraft carrier imto Syrian waters in what appears to be a sign of escalation while Russia has a history of indiscriminately striking US-aligned forces. Sharing an innate, mutual distrust, it is not surprising that even minor issues would quickly escalate tensions opposing sides. There is also a tendency for Russian leadership to respond to disputes and other threats with unbridled aggression, which forces a mirrored response. Coupled with bad US-Russian relations, this alone means the US and Russia cannot hope to resolve the Syrian Civil War.
Furthermore, there are times when you just need to step back and look at the bigger picture. Considering the Ukraine Crisis, South China Sea Crisis, the threat of globalized terrorism, growing poverty, civil unrest fueled unresponsive government, and a whole host of other issues, it is clear the International Community lacks vision and a commitment to the aspiration it once pursued. Frankly, the Countries and Peoples of the world seem to lack faith in global cooperation for the betterment of mankind. Following the Second World War, world leaders stepped back and saw the human race was on the verge of extinction.
Instead of focusing on every grievance and the pursuit of punitive measures, they chose to transform the world. During this time, the United Nations was born. Unfortunately, the lofty aspirations of the UN have often fallen short. Not only has the UN failed to create enforcement mechanisms for violations of “International Law,” aspirations as basic as human rights continue to be violated with impunity. Looking at the aspiration of human rights, most leaders accused of human rights and war crimes violations openly mock such allegations. It is because they do not respect them. It is because they know these things only matter when people are willing and able to enforce them.
Frankly, the UN is not an actual governing body. International Law is based on treaty law and treaties must be recalibrated as the national interests of allies change over time. The United Nations is a forum for diplomatic engagement and the arbitration of conflict while International Law is an agreement supported and upheld by a plurality of nations. Unless countries support the principles and efforts of the United Nations, or the notion of an International Community for that matter, International Law and human rights become little more than wishful thinking. Because the UN has continually failed to address the interests and resolve the grievances of less powerful governments, many of them no longer see the value in the United Nation.
Consequently, there needs to be an international commitment and concerted effort to renew the credibility of the International Community. A large part of the problem is that documents like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are not universally supported. The Document in question invokes ill-defined cultural rights, which means it includes the cultural bias of the most influential nation of the 1940; whereas, human rights must be independent and universally embraced. In other words, human rights should transcend culture in order to be something all populations can respect and uphold. In Syria, US-aligned forces and Russia have common interests, yet they also have conflicting interests. Unless both sides focus on their broader interests in resolving the Syrian Civil War, they cannot overcome their conflicting interests.
Read old posts