The Syrian Conflict – Who Will You Go To Battle With?

Barack Obama took office in 2008 as a moderate, an accomplished lawyer with enough grammatical tricks and a robust lexicon to weave his way through Congress and the rest of the political establishment. For many, if not all of us, Barack Obama became synonymous with fresh air. A much needed break from his conservative, trigger happy predecessor George W. Bush. Similarly, across the Atlantic, Tony Blair’s regime gave way to the Conservative-LibDem Coalition. Between them, Bush Jnr and Blair had started two wars, both constantly vomiting casualties, with no end in sight.

Change! That was the mantra on everybody’s lips as there was a changing of guards on both sides of the Atlantic. Till this date, we have only got a glimpse into the personalities and abilities of both Obama and Cameron on economic related matters as both have been focused on jumpstarting their flagging economies respectively. Libya came close to testing both leaders’ military know-how, but Gadaffi capitulated very early on in the game. Since then, with the exception of the tragic Boston bombings earlier on in April, everything has been fairly quiet on the military front. However, bubbling deep in the Middle East was the Syrian civil war which commenced in March 2011. As the fighting continued and humanitarian crisis escalated, it was becoming clear that this was no longer a Tahrir Square type revolution but a country fast descending into disarray with innocent citizens losing their lives and properties. I realised that there was a certain wariness on the part of the Western governments to get their hands ‘dirty’ in the murky waters of the Syrian debacle between President Assad and the rebels. Intervention became even less appealing in the face of the former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinajad’s rhetoric about nuclear weapons and war. Unwilling to embroil itself in another Middle Eastern conflict and wary of ticking Ahmadinajad off, the West stayed aloof. The Obama and Cameron Cabinets refused to bite the bullet even as we were bombarded with footages of carnage and bloodshed from Syria. It seemed as though Washington and London (and other Western countries) were operating in a concerted silence.

August 21st 2013 seemed to be a game changer when Assad allegedly deployed chemical weapons against his own people. At the mention of the phrase ‘chemical weapon’, the international conscience which up until now seemed dead came alive and the West started banging the drums of war. The current state of affairs in Syria, as well as the Russian obstacle to intervention, is going to try the diplomatic skills of the US and the UK. As Obama and Cameron are quickly realising, war is a different ball game compared to dealing with fat cats on Wall Street and in The City. The stakes are higher, there is little room for manoeuvre and the costs are monumental – both fiscal and human. With the dreadful spectre of Bush and Blair’s open ended conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is perhaps not surprising that Congress and Westminster are wary of war.

Whether or not the West intervenes militarily in Syria, there remains a pertinent question: Can Obama and Cameron handle it? Till this date, Cameron’s handling of the issue leaves plenty of room for concern. Recalling Parliament early to vote on a motion about going to war before the report of the UN investigators in Syria was presumptuous and could prove costly for British clout in resolving the conflict. Whilst some may say it is high time Britain stopped being a police state, I argue that Cameron’s lack of strategy and tact has in fact relegated Britain to the position of an isolated spectator. Why couldn’t Cameron wait? The dynamics and complexities of the situation had not been ascertained as of when he put the motion before MPs. He went to them with sketchy and unconfirmed evidence and MPs fearing the return of a situation akin to the elusive Sadaam Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) said ‘NO!’ Whatever the outcome of this Syrian crisis, Cameron and Obama will quickly find out that screaming from the opposition benches in Congress and across the dispatch box in Parliament is a world away from being in the hot seat. Obama and Cameron have to tread carefully, the spectre of Iraq and Afghanistan are very real and wrong action could set off a series of instability in an already volatile region. Nevertheless, inaction is not a viable way forward. With the UN inspectors confirming that Sarin gas was used by the regime, Syria will be a scar on the conscience of the Western world if nothing is done to alleviate the situation. It is perhaps wise for Obama to widen his options and not solely lean on missile strikes. However mischievously concocted, I think Putin has done the West a favour by opening up the option of negotiating a way of putting all of Syria’s chemical weapon under international supervision.

On a final note, as much as we remember Iraq and Afghanistan as ill fated wars, we should not fail to call to remembrance the ethnic cleansing and human butchering which took place in Bosnia in the 1990s which resulted in a massive humanitarian crisis. We risk a sickening reoccurrence of the same human loss and refugee crisis if Assad is not effectively neutralised. At the end of the day, the focal point of any action by the international community should be the ordinary civilians who are trapped in the crossfire between the despotic regime and the equally questionable rebels.

Whatever the outcome of all the diplomatic manoeuvring and choreography, there is a pertinent question which lingers; “who will you go to battle with?” Cameron’s hastiness leaves a lot to be desired and Putin’s latest trick has left President Obama in a sticky position where he is seemingly having to pull back on the war rhetoric. Neither of these leaders, with all their skills and strengths, will tell you there is a simulation which prepares you for war. Both seem to be making it up as they go along.

Can the moderate Democrats and the compassionate Conservatives handle it?

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Categories: Global Political Insight, International politics


Who says Christianity and politics don't mix?! Pfft! I am a redeemed daughter of the Most High on a mission to rebuild the broken walls in our society today, one word at a time. I do God...make no mistake about that - feel free to join me. Read this blog, let your mind be renewed and your life be transformed. I love a good argument, please let me at it!!!!

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4 Comments on “The Syrian Conflict – Who Will You Go To Battle With?”

  1. Siv
    September 14, 2013 at 8:30 pm #

    You are right to raise issue with Cameron’s performance re: Syria. It was not on par with the quality of leadership I would expect in the run up to war. Ironically, Tony Blair, one of the most hated men in the world, was an excellent orator and securing Parliamentary backing for his foreign excursions not once but twice (Iraq and Kosovo, I do not include Afghanistan as the British response was a given). Anyway, the point being, Cameron’s failure extends beyond just Britain, by capitulating on the historic tradition of following US to war, Obama was forced to rethink his position and ultimately, seek Congressional approval. Had Cameron succeeded in securing the vote, it is far more likely that military strikes would have been conducted and finished by now, thus necessitating the impossibly difficult proposition of securing and destroying chemical stockpiles in Syria.

    • Damilola Olaniyi
      September 14, 2013 at 10:56 pm #

      Yes Siv,
      As with everything in life, true character and strength are only revealed in moments of pressure.
      And with regards to destroying Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile, I say “good idea, but doubt it will solve the problem.” Even when you take away all of Assad’s nuclear toys, Syrians are still dying everyday from conventional weapons. But some progress is better than no progress I guess.

      • Siv
        September 15, 2013 at 12:25 am #

        I agree. Even if the US-Russian venture achieves the impossible by locating, securing and destroying 100% of the chemical stockpiles in a country ravaged by civil war (a laughable feat), it will do nothing to stop the primary killer in this civil war: conventional weapons. Kerry and Lavrov will have us believe that a political solution is possible with Geneva 2 talks, however, until there is a significant change in momentum on the battlefield in favour of the rebels, Assad will not feel pressured to make concessions.

        There really is no happy ending to this sorry episode. Military intervention is now off the table and arming the rebels, if not also off the table, will prove a difficult task given the various factions within the opposition (a direct result of the West not arming moderate elements from the outset of the uprising).

  2. November 4, 2013 at 10:25 pm #

    Kerry has been a bumbling idiot during all of this. Lavrov should be heralded,

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