Thursday, 25 April 2013

Syria and Yugoslavia Compared.

A humane and thoughtful piece from Timothy Garton Ash on Syria appeared in The Guardian  with regards the way there seems to be no urgency to find a solution to the Syrian Civil War that has now claimed 70,000 lives in just two years. In Yugoslavia in the 1990s over almost a decade it was 100,000 dead.

However, he does not quite seem to understand how badly previous "responsibility to protect" notions were  manipulated cynically by the Great Powers and in practice were largely abandoned once the invasions dragged on. Garton Ash states,
So why isn't the word "Syria" on all our lips? Twenty years ago, in 1993, everyone was talking about Bosnia. Ten years ago, in 2003, everyone was talking about Iraq.
The reason is that the West is not held to directly to blame for events in Syria. So there have been no mass protests and debates in London or New York. But also there is cynicism and fatigue. The idea is that nothing can be done, especially if it means the prospect of a disastrous military intervention.
Meanwhile, we have a UN-sanctioned doctrine of the "responsibility to protect", in response to what happened in Yugoslavia and Rwanda. If the responsibility to protect does not apply to the man-made humanitarian catastrophe in Syria, where does it apply?
The problem is that this noble concept has been abused by the Great Powers to advocate the NATO attack on Serbia in 1999 ( which increased the level of ethnic cleansing ), the futile invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and the catastrophic invasion of Iraq in 2003. There is no will nor want for any "intervention" in 2013.

Garton Ash tends to overlook the fact that both the Balkans and Syria were part of the Ottoman Empire up until 1918, though Serbia was breaking away up to a century before. The European states found they had some basis formed on territorial jurisdiction and national loyalties.

In the southern Islamic lands of the Ottoman Empire, none of the states carved out of the collapsed imperium had any real territorial legitimacy in constrast to even the Balkan states and despite the ferocious nationalism stoked up by demagogues such as Tudjman and Milosevic..

After 1918, the lands to the south of what would become Turkey, such as Syria and Iraq had no territorial jurisdiction nor loyalties beyond religious sectarian allegiances or tribal affiliation. The supposed "nation states" became subject after WW2 by ideological politics such as Baathism.

Yet there numerous flaws in Garton Ash's liberal mandarin outlook,

In Kosovo we applied direct force, by air and land, to secure a peace based on even more far-reaching ethnic division. Thirteen years on, the still embryonic rapprochement between Serbia and Kosovo civilises that division, European style,
In fact, the CIA and US forces armed and backed the terroristic KLA under Hacim Thaci to stimulate a cycle of violence, ignoring the the more peaceful Kosovan moderates, by attacking Serbian police station and so lure Milosevic into greater repressive measures.

This is a fact that even finds expression in respected historians and journalists work, such as Tim Judah's Kosovo: War and Revenge. The Kosovan regime under Thaci has been responsible for drug smuggling, sex trafficking, and the sale of human organs.

It is curious to know whether such practices, as carried on by the Kosovan regime, are in line with contemporary "European style" or an "untidy peace" in Garton Ash's view. Or the abandonment of Serbs after 2001 to Kosovan retaliation as KFOR troops were deployed to Afghanistan and then Iraq.

Garton Ash is right: Syria has become a proxy war. The CIA are already trying to funnel arms to "the right rebels". But rejections from the outset of a diplomatically negotiated settlement by Clinton and Hague ( "Assad Must Go! ) hardened the Russian, Chinese and Iranian stance that he will stay.

The reason the US and UK is intervening is that removing Assad means a major land bridge linking Iran with Hezbollah and maintaining the balance of power in the Middle East toward the Shia governments and movements would be removed.

To remove Assad would mean Iran would be encircled by Western Power both to the west ( in Syria and, though erratically ) by a shia dominated Iraqi government and to the East in Afghanistan. The idea of all the troops leaving Afghanistan is an untruth. A strong military presence will remain.

Garton Ash almost never understands the vital role of the New Great Game and the competition for oil and gas both in the Middle East and in Central Asia. The Afghanistan War is crucially concerned with ensuring the security along the route along which the TAPI pipeline will be built.

Syria fits in to this Great Power contest because the grand plan is to throttle the Iranian government in Tehran by blocking off its oil and gas exports. By ensuring the TAPI pipeline is constructed a community of interest between central and south Asia will be created. It's regional ambitions thwarted.

Garton Ash urgently needs to realise that the future lies in resource wars. Repeatedly he has written of the West's "vital interests". Yet this Orwellian euphemism never mentions words like gas or oil. The power of facing facts seems no longer to be important for him.

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