The case for intervention in Syria

In the first of a two-part series, James Snell argues the case for intervention in Syria. Check the Tea Room for Lee Jenkins's counter-argument and leave your comments below, indicating which side you agree with

by James Snell on 21 February 2013 10:54

Syria continues to divide opinion. We now know the true extent of the casualties and the horrific scale of the waiting humanitarian disaster, which will soon occur if something is not done about it. Thousands wait in refugee camps, and with the borders at Israel and Turkey bursting, most will not get the place of safety which they so desperately need.

The regime is hesitant to allow foreign aid workers into the country, and those that are granted access speak of cities of tents full of lean figures and painfully hungry mouths.

Around 60,000 people have already died in the fighting, some of them in scenes reminiscent of the Srebrenica massacre in the darkest depths of the Yugoslav catastrophe. Lined up and shot, boys as young as twelve are being exterminated by agents of a brutal, falling, regime and the worst Jihadi elements of a rebellion beyond our current control.

Syria is spiralling into chaos – one where all sides are concentrated in urban centres, such as the government stronghold of Damascus and the rebel bases in Aleppo and Homs. This not only has the effect of making each faction virtually unconquerable, a la Nineteen Eighty-four, but it also has the nasty consequence of magnifying civilian casualties, like the heroic citizen journalist Rami al-Sayed, who uploaded hundreds of hours of videos to Internet sites under the name ‘Syria Pioneer’.

He chronicled the fight of the rebels to save their city of Homs, and was eventually killed for his work, after the Syrian military started shelling journalists. Other reporters killed in Syria include the Sunday Times’ Marie Colvin and photojournalist Remi Ochlik.

This uprising is part of the Arab Spring of 2011, and for it to still be limping on, bloodily, two years later is obscene. The West is hardly short of the means to go to war and the reasons too, although the Establishment does its best to filibuster with vague platitudes which emanate from civil service Sir Humphreys, who insist with all the starched pomposity they can muster that ‘Syria is different to Libya’.

The main reason I can think is that the former is a blood-shod wasteland, and the latter is a successfully liberated nation, in the progress of a democratic transition to a brighter, freer, future.  

We have seen the suffering, and intervened successfully, in Libya, and witnessed the euphoric reaction to our help. In Benghazi, David Cameron was cheered as a liberator and the populace sang songs about their foreign friends.

Even if the Syrians don’t welcome us, which would be contrary to the hundreds of impotent refugees screaming for some end to the horror, we must have some sense of shared humanity; which should force us to act.

We also know the action which follows non-intervention, with the failure of the UN to act in Rwanda and Sudan among examples which should forever tarnish the undeserved reputation of the world’s ‘peacekeepers’.

This is in itself an argument for intervention. As a rule of thumb, pick something Kofi Annan condemns, and then do it. This is the man responsible for more deaths than Tony Blair and yet has the audacity to suggest the former goes on trial for war crimes. His peace plan failed, and this is all of the justification we should need.

While the bureaucrats attempt to reach an agonisingly neutral settlement, people are being killed by their own government. We, if we acted independent of the toothless super-national organisations such as the EU and the UN, would be able to be partial and support the right side. We could even, since we would be bankrolling the FSA, put our foot down on the spread of al-Qaeda which the up-to-now-unregulated rebels incubated.

We are left with the spectre of Iraq in all our recent foreign policy endeavours. With the world set against intervention as a whole because of the actions of a few preening pseudo-socialists (George Galloway, Owen Jones, et al.) who now, ten years on, decide to bring up their minor action in defending the forces of dictatorship and thuggery by marching on London with other similarly ill-informed people.

It is in this triumphalist vein that the aforementioned Jones devoted one of his most recent columns to the Iraq War, conveniently leaving out the secular democracy now established, as well as freedom for Iraqi womanhood and for the Kurds (the world’s last stateless peoples).

He also forgot the greatest action of the war in Iraq: removing a violent neo-Fascist from the helm of a ruined fiefdom now reaping the rewards of his overthrow.

It is also true that military intervention now, backed up by the full force of the world’s strongest military powers, would eventually create stability. Even the pragmatists, who use realpolitik to justify their selfish support of the worst excesses of the ‘strongmen’ they sponsor, must accept that since Assad is already in decline, we must side with the ascendant rebels. And even if there were no moral imperative to do so, it surely makes sense to join with those most likely to win.

Adopting a coldly statistical manner would still lead us to the conclusion that oil supplies are at risk in the region as well as our interests in Israel and Iraq. On this basis alone there is more than enough to justify any amount of military involvement.

Internationalism dictates, and I subscribe, to the idea of a shared humanity tying disparate nations together. It is what made the citizens of Britain unite behind New Yorkers after 9/11, and them to back us after 7/7.

We need to extend this support to all peoples fighting against tyranny and theocracy, wherever they are in the world. If to do so we must sacrifice British blood and treasure, so be it. The men we send to war signed up to defend our flag and Queen; they should embrace the opportunity to save the downtrodden the world over too.

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