For Whose Credibility? The UN or The US?
Obama's request to seek the Houses' approval of his administration's plan to attack Syria has established in my view a momentous chance for a public debate on the topic of military intervention. The arguments raised for and against such an intervention range from those madly enthralled with the US' leadership in the world on the one hand and those belonging to a more anti imperialist worldview on the other. What piques my interest most however is the position of the intelligentsia and the pundits in the area of political science or similar studies.
Vali Nasr, one of the leading American experts in Middle East and the Dean of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in WD, has recently argued that Obama's dithering stance to intervene in Syria after its military crossed the red line he had previously laid out is going to send a wrong message to the perpetrators of the heinous crime that killed over a thousand civilians on Aug 21 on the outskirts of Damascus. He contends that by insisting on conducting a limited military operation in form of a congress approved convention (and that only after the representatives return from a summer recess on Sep 9th) Asad and the future Asads are not going to lose any incentive or have second thought for carrying out perhaps another chemical assault in the near future. Such a reaction from the world's most recognized leader to an international law breaker he believes is weak and will breed destructive outcomes. Those outcomes in his analysis will appear in any of the two following forms:
"The first is that the Assad regime falls, which would mean that Syria, or chunks of it, could be ruled by radical Islamists associated with Al Qaeda — producing new and unwelcome threats to global security that could invite an even larger American intervention down the line.
The second is that American military strikes will level the playing field between Mr. Assad’s forces and the rebels, so that the civil war would go on for a long time, destroying more of the country, killing more of its population, and sending even more refugees into Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. That would make the Syrian conflict even more dangerous. With no American deterrent on the horizon, the Assad regime might use chemical weapons again, while extremists might provide havens for terrorists of the kind the Afghan war produced for Al Qaeda in the 1990s".
What Nasr concludes from these is that the US should appear far more resolved in dealing with the Syrian crisis by embracing the goal of weeding out both the criminal regime of Al Asad and the radical agents of the fundamental opposition whose presence will threaten the stability of the entire region. "America should act decisively and in a timely manner, and based on a strategic vision that includes a way out of this war. That would impress American allies and adversaries alike. That is what the world needs and what Mr. Obama should focus on. The risks of intervention are great, and success is uncertain, but doing nothing would be, at this point, far worse."
Mr. Nasr's thesis is simply built on wrong assumptions and carries a misconception about the history of the American policy in dealing with the Syrian opposition. From the inception of the political chaos in Syria the US has always been consistent in supporting the rebels by all means available to it. This is the American tradition of supporting any type of militia in so far as they maintain what it takes to strike a blow to the regime they so much detest. The formation of Al Qaeda and its offshoots through out the Middle East should have long been a wake up call for such strategies.
It was in April 2011 that the US acknowledged it was funding the Syrian opposition by providing $6.3 million to "the Movement for Justice and Development, a London-based dissident organization that operates the Barada TV satellite channel, which broadcasts anti-government news into Syria. Another $6 million went to support a variety of initiatives, including training for journalists and activists, between 2006 and 2010". We also know that the two most US backed regimes of Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been equipping the Syrian rebels with weapons and needed arms to fight the pro Asad elements. In doing so the region's most radical Islamist groups (namely Wahabis and Salafis) have been nurtured to charge the Syrian land with their own cause of ideology at whose core the regime of Asad and the Western values should both be fought against.
With such a scenario at play Vali Nasr's proposal to the Obama administration would have to involve a heavy presence of the US army inside Syria so as to completely change the dynamics of power in a way that would rid the Syrian territories from both the Asad regime elements and all the existing opposition factions they helped take root in that region. The question would then be; if the US has been supporting the rebels in Syria in the first place why should it try to wipe them all out according to Mr. Nasr proposition? Presuming that this should be the case nonetheless, what this would entail essentially is that due to a clear lack of political alternative to take the leadership in Syria, the US will need to install a puppet regime in the same fashion that it did in Iraq and Afghanistan. This regime would certainly suffer from the absence of a popular support needed to confront all its opposing factions including the Alawites and the Sunnies that are ready to set that land on fire in order to take back what they have lost. The likelihood of a spill over of such instability into the neighboring countries in this case is confidently much higher than the possible unpleasant outcomes of only containing the ongoing civil war in Syria, to which Mr. Nasr stands against.
The solution to the Syrian crisis I believe should not be measured by giving the priority to maintaining the credibility of a declining empire. Rather, it should focus on bringing back an international coalition that can most certainly change the situation in Syria via their elements in that region. The United States of course as an important player by no doubt reserves an undisputed role in organizing such a coalition but we know for one thing that Russia and Iran have long established and maintained part of their national interests in Syria as well. Those interests need to be carefully addressed if any solution to the ongoing proxy war in Syria is to be found.
Mr. Nasr’s proposal however ignores not only the significance of the Iranian and Russian presence in that region but also the devised international process in which Russia and China maintain a special UN ranking in solving this crisis. The justification that is being propagated through out the media for bypassing the UN on this matter that is also touched briefly by Mr. Nasr, is the impasse at the Security Council due to the possible veto of Russia and China. However, the impasse that the UN is facing today in the Security Council is not of structure, it is of choice. In 1950 during the heights of the US-Soviet tension the Security Council faced its most unprecedented deadlock of the history in passing various resolutions. The solution however became a resolution passed in the General Assembly titled “Uniting for Peace”, which simply states “that in any cases where the Security Council because of a lack of unanimity amongst its five permanent members, fails to act as required to maintain international peace and security, the General Assembly shall consider the matter immediately and may issue any recommendations it deems necessary in order to restore international peace and security”.
The risk of constant turndowns of these international protocols in exchange for buying further credibility for US’ hegemonic power is the continued undermining of the United Nation and its integrity in mediating conflicts as the only credible international body that the world has agreed to abide by its judgments. So concerned with the credibility of the United States and its red lines is Mr. Nasr that the danger of compromising the legitimate authority of the UN is absolutely absent in his analysis, the lessons of which have been learnt from the ruins of the League of Nation.