Friday, August 30, 2013

Staying out of Syria

Yesterday something strange happened, as for once I’m actually moderately pleased with my government. As many of you will have read the UK Parliament yesterday voted to abstain on military action in Syria and I actually support this for the most part. If anything I’m pleased that we had a debate about this and didn't heavy handedly force a war upon ourselves, I think we've actually seen real democracy in action.

I use the term moderately pleased for this as I can’t pretend that not taking action on Syria is an out and out good thing. The country is hurting, there are severe atrocities taking place and the nation is locked in a heartbreaking struggle for its future with no standout heroes and villains everywhere. That being said, I find some of the pro-intervention voices a little grating and I will explain why.

Firstly, we can’t pretend that we’re so self-important to think that the world’s weight is on our shoulders. Many people are wringing their hands saying that “we’re the world’s third superpower and we must intervene”. I think these people were the last individuals to get the memo that we’re no longer a superpower. The Empire ended around the late 1940s and any influence we've had since has been attained by standing in America’s shadow.  Quite frankly I’m pleased we’re out of the international chess game that goes on as we've only been kidding ourselves that we held any of the pieces.

Many people argue that Britain has a history of stepping in to humanitarian wars or wars of compassion but look back at history and the first time we probably did this was 1914 and even that was imperial dick measuring. Every war before that was a straightforward war of conquest. Few of our humanitarian efforts aside from maybe Kosovo and Bosnia could be called truly humanitarian as in all the other cases we’ve had something to gain be it influence, resources or money. If we truly wanted to take action against humanitarian disasters we should have intervened in Zimbabwe, Sudan and Somalia for starters.

Let us also not forget that we've just fought two so-called humanitarian wars, which were ruinous both for us and for the country on the receiving end and solved precisely nothing. Britain is resented for many reasons in the Middle East due to our involvement with the creation of Israel as well as our actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Quite frankly we’re just not wanted in that region right now and I highly doubt we’d be welcomed as liberators in Syria. We'd be seen as an aggressive force, attempting to instill our cultural and political values among the populous and making the conflict and life worse due to our meddling. Would that be a far wrong assessment?

The problem with intervening in Syria is that it isn't clear who the enemy is and who we should be assisting. The rebels in Syria seem almost as bad as Assad’s forces, with their soldiers doing barbarous things like this. It's a shame there aren't more portrayals of our heroes that involve eating the organs of their enemies... We also have no long term plan for what would happen with Syria after the conflict and looking at the countries we've left in the lurch in the past Syria may even be better off without us. I’m glad we may have averted having a hand in making a messy situation even messier. In any case we don’t even know exactly who’s utilized the chemical weapons so who’s to say that we wouldn't have inadvertently assisted the perpetrators of this awful crime.

I think this moment marks a new chapter of our history, where my country has accepted its place in the world and understands that the days of throwing our weight around as a super power are done. We’re better off serving Syria as part of the international community’s efforts to gain peace and by offering positive help rather than bombs. We’re not the world’s police. We do need to stand up for what’s right and we have done so by condemning the actions in Syria but I really don’t see how bombing the already beleaguered people of Syria just to shore up our pompous belief that we defend the world’s moral high ground is of any use. Who wants that kind of help after all?

No comments: