Hysteria is no substitute for level-headed statesmanship

The West is apparently spiralling into a military intervention in Syria

Military action bears risks. There are no good options to resolve the threat that Mr Assad poses to his own people and the wider world. But to do nothing would be the worst one of all.

Financial Times, Aug. 26, 2013 : The moral case for intervention in Syria, see: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/249bda68-0bee-11e3-8f77-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2dCMBf27T

A few days after images have surfaced that show the apparent use of chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war, Western powers now seem to be determined to intervene in that country’s internal conflict. The argument that is being purported by leaders in France, Britain and the US to support a military strike in Syria is that doing nothing in response to the illegal use of weapons of mass destruction would ultimately create more harm by way of enouraging  copycat behavior of other rogue dictators than doing something even though that “something” continues to be ill-defined. Noah denkt™ believes that this logic is flawed because of several reasons:

1)     So far, it hasn’t been proven sufficiently that the chemical weapons used recently in Syria were indeed deployed by the Syrian government. After all, the forensic UN team that is currently in Syria to collect evidence with respect to the agents used in this attack hasn’t finalized its report yet. It can hence not be ruled out at this point that Al-Qaeda-linked rebel groups had a hand in exploding subject chemical devices in order to stir public opinion in the West.

2)      As unpredictable as rogue dictators may be there is one thing they tend to have in common which is a pretty sharp sense of survival (at least up until the point of no return). It is hence naive to believe that hard-knuckled power wielders would simply follow the blueprint of other people’s behavior when trying to pursue their own goals. Much rather can we be certain that they are shrewed enough to understand that every conflict scenario has its own individual characteristics and that one lack of Western reponse here may not necessarily entail another lack of response under different circumszances.. In other words, Western hesitation to intervene in the Syrian conflict has nothing to with a lack of resolve to defend international law (witness prior interventions in Kosovo, Libya, Mali etc..) but it has everything to do with the difficulty to reach a satifactory outcome once the decision to intervene has been taken.

3)      If the copycat argument has any relevance at all in this context, it would apply much rather to the disastrous consequences of a failed “punishment” strike rather than to the absence of it. After all, the possiblity that any Western intervention in Syria might produce next to no tangible results is very real given that Western powers have already made it clear that they are not willing to commit ground forces to that operation. It is a very open question though what kind of damage air strikes could possibly do to Assad’s capability to wreak havoc in that country.

4)      If the need to intervene were as overwhelming as the Financial Times and others have us believe, the international community would be way more united in this matter than it actually is at this point. As much as it can be argued that Russia and China do not have a great stake in the defense of human rights, it is also clear that none of the two countries has an interest to accept a lowering of the threshold for the use of weapons of mass destruction. In other words, if the current Syrian case were undisputed and outrageous enough to unite the world behind a desire to intervene in subject theater than we could truly argue that it would be worse to do nothing than to do something. Now, we recognize that this latter argument is a pretty cold-blooded one. But unfortunately ist is by way of these categories that responsible statesmen comply with their leadership obligation. And that is true even if an emotional public opinion seems to push them into an opposite direction.

5)      Finally, it really is pretty irresponsible to “do something” when that “something” hasn’t been thought through in a calm and collected manner. Because the sad realty with respect to a possible intervention in Syria is that we, the West and in deed the international community, have no political plan as to how to pacify that country once the Assad regime has been removed; have no military strategy as to how to intervene in Syria; and we also have no unequivocal legal basis for that intervention given the absence of UN secruity council resolution to that effect and given that the right to regime change would require a substantial threat to the entire population of Syria.

Conclusion: Under the above mentioned circumstances it is actually quite appalling that elected leaders in Britain and France prefer to act out of impulse rather than out of cold analysis. This kind of statesmenship can at best can be described as mediocre. The citizens of aforementioned countries clearly deserve better than that.

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