Stephen Zunes : Syria
Dr. Stephen Zunes talks about why there is nothing the U.S. can do about the Syrian situation
An op-ed piece published on Truthout.org about Israel’s attack against Syria on May 6th, 2013
The worsening violence and repression in Syria has left policymakers scrambling to think of ways our governments could help end the bloodshed and support those seeking to dislodge the Assad regime. The desperate desire to “do something” has led to increasing calls for the United States to provide military aid to armed insurgents or even […]
If, as alleged, the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons, it would indeed be a serious development, constituting a breach of the Geneva Protocol of 1925, one of the world?s most important disarmament treaties, which banned the use of chemical weapons. In 1993, the international community came together to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention, a […]
The worsening violence and repression in Syria has left many analysts and policymakers in the United States and other western countries scrambling to think of ways our governments could help end the bloodshed and support those seeking to dislodge the Assad regime. The desperate desire to “do something” has led a growing number of people to advocate for increased military aid to armed insurgents or even direct military intervention, as the French government has said it will consider doing unilaterally.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has claimed that “there are attack helicopters on the way from Russia to Syria,” though the Russian government denies the accusation. If true, it would be highly disturbing, given the Syrian regime’s widespread use of such weapons against unarmed civilians. Amnesty International and other human rights groups have […]
Although the impulse to try to end the ongoing repression by the Syrian regime against its own people through foreign military intervention is understandable, it would be a very bad idea.
Empirical studies have repeatedly demonstrated that international military interventions in cases of severe repression actually exacerbate violence in the short term and can only reduce violence in the longer term if the intervention is impartial or neutral. Other studies demonstrate that foreign military interventions actually increase the duration of civil wars, making the conflicts longer and bloodier, and the regional consequences more serious, than if there were no intervention. In addition, military intervention would likely trigger a “gloves off” mentality that would dramatically escalate the violence on both sides.
Official Washington has been rife with condemnation at the decision by the governments of Russia and China to veto an otherwise unanimous UN Security Council resolution condemning the ongoing repression in Syria and calling for a halt to violence on all sides; unfettered access for Arab League monitors; and “a Syrian-led political transition to a democratic, plural political system, in which citizens are equal regardless of their affiliations or ethnicities or beliefs.”
As the Syrian regime continues to slaughter unarmed civilians, the major powers at the United Nations continue to put their narrow geopolitical agenda ahead of international humanitarian law. Just as France shields Morocco from accountability for its ongoing occupation and repression in Western Sahara and just as the United States shields Israel from having to live up to its obligations under international humanitarian law, Russia and China have used their permanent seats on the UN Security Council to protect the Syrian regime from accountability for its savage repression against its own citizens.
The Syrian pro-democracy struggle has been both an enormous tragedy and a powerful inspiration. Indeed, as someone who has studied mass nonviolent civil insurrections in dozens of countries in recent decades, I know of no people who have demonstrated such courage and tenacity in the face of such savage repression as have the people of Syria these past 10 months.