Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Britain, East Aleppo and the Disintegration of the Liberal Interventionist World Order

'We are beginning to learn the price of not intervening'. George Osborne MP.

One of the most depressing aspects of the disintegration of the EU and the failure of liberal politics is the recourse not to blaming mediocre politicians and their serial incompetence, both at home and abroad, but in latching on to conspiracy theories to rationalise away precisely those failures at a time of undoubted crisis.

Ben Bradshaw, ranting in Parliament, claimed Russia was 'deliberately' bombarding Aleppo in order to worsen the refugee crisis and so to destabilise the EU. George Osborne bizarrely claimed that Britain's failure into 'intervene' had somehow helped create a world order in which both Russia and ISIS were both new twin threats.

Desperate to find any reason other than their own lack of vision and incompetence for the election of Trump and the EU referendum on Brexit, the shrill Bradshaw finds a scapegoat in Russia whose manipulation was “highly probable”. This sort of unproven conspiracy mongering shows a complete denial of reality.

For a start it plays into the hands of those who claim liberal democracy is so weak that it cannot resist the bias of RT or Kremlin subterfuge. The EU referendum vote was free and fair. There is no evidence UKIP has received funds from Moscow, though the West has funded oppositionist groups in ex-Soviet dominated lands.

As a consequence of continued Western meddling from both the EU and US in the affairs of states such as Ukraine and Georgia for example, it is hardly surprising that fervent Atlanticists and liberal interventionists such as Bradshaw project such motives on to the Kremlin as a way of diverting attention from Western failures.

The most obvious examples, apart from the domestic failure of neoliberal economic policies in nations both West but especially in the East-hence the mass exodus West-is in foreign policy. George Osborne laments the failure to intervene in 2013 as somehow 'causing' the consequences of the bombing of Aleppo now.

Yet this airbrushes out from perception the fact that had Assad been removed by air strikes in 2013, jihadists would have taken over most of Syria and caused a far worse bloodbath than the one reaching its gory endgame in east Aleppo. The 'moderate rebels' were a geopolitical fiction even back in 2013 and remain so in 2016.

The only way to have averted he Aleppo tragedy and the hypocritically downplayed and unmentionable one going on in Sanna in Yemen at present, courtesy of UK backed Saudi airstrikes, would have been to stand up to Saudi backing for jihadist forces in Syria and have pushed for diplomatic solutions in 2013.

There was never any realistic chance in the context of a brutal civil war with a strong sectarian element of enmity driving it, one backed by regional players as part of a proxy war for advantage over the other, that any one side could be the outright winner, other than Assad who controlled a 'functioning' state and army.

The botched intervention in Libya in 2011 simply repeated the mistakes of Iraq. The country is even worse than it was when Gaddafi ruled it. Syria would have been dominated by ISIS had Assad been knocked out as part of 'regime change'. Putin prevented that from happening and now seeks to finish off the rebels for good.

Denunciations of Russian attacks on Aleppo as a 'New Guernica' is savvy 'public diplomacy' that advertises 'our values'. Yet US and UK missiles and bombs are killing casualties in Iraq. ISIS is using human shields in Mosul as the Iraqi army strafes and bombs it; and jihadi groups in east Aleppo are dying precisely the same.

The only moral high ground comes from the idea that ISIS is ISIS and there are no 'moderates' among them. Effectively, there are few if any 'moderates' left over from the original FSA in Aleppo. If they cared so much for the civilian population, the time of the ceasefire would have been the best time to compromise.

However, the jihadists in east Aleppo vowed to 'fight to the last drop of blood'. Partly, this is because it is claimed Assad would give no quarter and no mercy. Other reports claim that there are plans to provide an exit route form them outwards towards Idlib along with civilians trapped in the beleaguered city

Alleviating the civilian misery in Aleppo is one thing that could still be achieved through diplomacy. Yet using airpower to drop supplies would cause problems with Russia in those crowded skies : it effectively has a 'no-fly zone' above it and, other than plans for drones to drop aid, using transport aircraft is almost impossible.

Certainly, British MPs could do something to tell the government to stop supporting the massacre of Sanaa.The US has already indicated that it wants to halt the supply of some arms to saudi Arabia, but that would appear yet more 'public diplomacy' designed to make it seem distant from the slaughter it is backing there.

All this posturing in Parliament is choreography. There is no real debate but just point making and positioning. Osborne cannot give any real sense as to how intervention ( i.e RAF bombing ) could have prevented this bombing by Russia now other than by committing Britain to another war such as Libya ( which failed )

Osborne claims east Aleppo is what happens as a consequence of not intervening, hoping all memory of what happened when Britain did could be erased by sententious moral rhetoric. But Britain did intervene. Britain helped cause this catastrophe, though, by intervening in the proxy war by supporting Saudi policy.

It did this from the outset of the uprising then turning into a civil war between Sunnis ranged against Assad because of the continued delusion that removing a secular dictator, not least one close to Russia and Iran, would ingratiate Britain with its Sunni Gulf allies in the region-all autocracies.

The idea that circles could be squared by having undemocratic Sunni Arab states back democracy in other lands, against secular dictators that once had aligned with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, shows the utter lack of ethical realism on behalf of Britain's discredited political class.

Neither Russia nor Iran were going to sit back and watch Assad simply knocked out. Nor were Qatar and Saudi Arabia going to be effective sponsors of democracy in Syria where their geopolitical interests were paramount in what was clearly a proxy war even as early as 2012.

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