A Brief Further Comment on Syria
Some of the sharpest critics of my posts contend that I focus too much attention on Israel while exempting the far worse Syrian regime from any sort of harsh condemnation. In fact, I did write a post devoted to the Syrian situation on May 31, 2012 in which I referred to the criminal character of the Assad regime and pointed to such bloody deeds (Crimes Against Humanity) as the Houla massacre that had occurred a few days before. In my mind, there is no doubt that the behavior of the ruling clique in Damascus is genocidal, and should be condemned and appropriate international action undertaken to protect the people of Syria.
But what is appropriate in such a situation is far from self-evident. The clarity of condemnation should not be confused with devising a prescription for action. Military intervention rarely succeeds, violates the right of self-determination, and often expands the scope and severity of violence, especially if carried out from the air. Furthermore, we know little about the opposition in Syria, to what extent its governance of the country would be based on the rule of law and human rights. There are confusing reports about rebel atrocities as well as concerning the role of Al Qaeda operatives leading some of the rebel forces, and also indications that Gulf money and weapons have been supplied to these forces ever since the beginning of the anti-Damascus uprising. Every government has the right to fight against its internal enemies, especially if heavily assisted by hostile external forces, although that right must be exercised within the framework of constraints imposed by international humanitarian law.
Reflecting this complexity, the leading governments have turned to the UN as the least bad option, and its former Secretary General, Kofi Annan, to do all in his power to bring the killing to an end, and broker some sort of political compromise. So far it seems that neither side is prepared to lay down its arms, and so the killing goes on. The UN response seems feeble, and it is, but in the absence of a better alternative, it is the best that the organized international community can do at this stage, especially given the standoff between the permanent members of the UN Security Council. In this regard, with all sorts of factors at play, the Syrian slaughterhouse is best interpreted as a tragic predicament for those outside the country and a tragedy for those trapped within.
Finally, it is certainly true that I have given overwhelming emphasis on my blog to the Israel/Palestine conflict. This is due partly to my recent work as a UN appointee, partly because I feel the United States through its diplomacy and financial contributions is so deeply and unacceptably involved in the conflict, and partly, no doubt, a matter of accidents of birth, friendship, and experience. In the period between 1965-75 I was comparably preoccupied with opposing the Vietnam War. I offer no apologies for either of these preoccupations, but readily admit that I could have chosen others.
Richard Falk is a member of the TRANSCEND Network, an international relations scholar, professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University, author, co-author or editor of 40 books, and a speaker and activist on world affairs. He is currently serving his fourth year of a six-year term as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian Human Rights. Since 2002 he has lived in Santa Barbara, California, and taught at the local campus of the University of California in Global and International Studies, and since 2005 chaired the Board of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. His most recent book is Achieving Human Rights (2009).
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MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA:
- Iran Welcomes Signs of Reconciliation from Saudi Arabia
- Israel’s Attacks on Iran Are Not Working
- The Middle East: Geopolitical Battleground
SYRIA IN CONTEXT: