Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Syrian Delirium

Suriya al Kubra!!
Already, this is one of the greatest humanitarian tragedies in recent times. If it is not stopped, those numbers are expected to rise rapidly. Soon we will have Somalia on the Mediterranean.

The population of Syria when this armed conflict started in 2011 was roughly that of Yugoslavia when its wars began in 1991: some 23 million. Over the subsequent decade of the Yugoslavian wars, more than 100,000 people died and some 4 million were displaced. In just two years, Syria is approaching the harvest of misery for which former Yugoslavia needed 10.

Truth is that Syria may be a harbinger of things to come. In the former Yugoslavia there was the overwhelming presence of one set of like-minded powers: Europe and the west. Russia was a countervailing force, as was China to a lesser degree, but neither felt its vital national interests were at stake in Serbia – whereas many outside powers do in Syria. And still it took 10 years, more than 100,000 dead and millions uprooted, before we reached an untidy peace.

In a no-polar or G-Zero world – with multiple competing powers, both global and regional, having an interest in a fractured country – such civil and proxy wars become more difficult to stop. Starting 100 years ago, with the Balkan wars that fed into the first world war, the 20th century became the bloodiest in human history.

Not only will Assad continue to fight furiously. Not only will he have support from the country's Alawite, Christian, Shia and Druze minorities, against an opposition now overwhelmingly identified with Sunni Islam. Most important, he will have backing from outside powers, above all Iran, which feels that its own future is at stake. Probably the war could be won for the rebels by a full aerial assault and foreign troops on the ground. But then, "if you break it, you own it". Up for a new Iraq, anyone?
Unless Great Satan and Free World develop new ways of conflict resolution, strong enough to constrain this new world disorder, the 21st century will be way more bloodier.

Pic - "For all the temptation to hide behind the decision to invade Iraq based on faulty intelligence about weapons of mass destruction, 44 must realize the tremendous damage he will do to Great Satan and to his legacy if he fails to act."