Apparently there is a massacre going in Aleppo and people are saying this is the next Srebrenica or Rwanda. The UN is busy making meaningless noises and British MPs and other public figures are saying “we must do something”.
I’m not sure what everyone expected to happen. The Assad regime was always brutal, and especially so since the Arab Spring. Indeed, it was the Syrian secret police detaining and torturing teenagers – not the CIA – which turned the protests into a civil war. Assad was never going to treat any defeated rebels with kid gloves, and massacres were likely to follow. This is generally what happens when an armed rebellion is put down by the government in most parts of the world, the civilian population cops it big time. It’s a shitty situation.
Those saying “we must do something” are talking about aid drops, as if that will achieve anything. Others are calling for military intervention, which is even more stupid. There might have been a window of opportunity to remove Assad and install a better government in 2013, but this was voted down in Parliament. That window slammed shut soon after and when the Russians entered the fray on the side of the Syrian government, it was effectively bricked up. Rather than complain bitterly that the Russians have outsmarted the strategic genius of Obama and Kerry and continue to arm jihadists in the hope that some of them would one day become the president of a new, democratic Syria the West should have accepted that Assad is here to stay so long as the Russians are bombing the opposition for him, and dealt with that reality. Once Russia got involved, and started deploying the same tactics it used to such great effect in Chechnya (i.e. massacre anyone in range, friend or foe) the least bad outcome in Syria was a swift end to the fighting, meaning Assad back in control and the rebels defeated or chased away.
It’s pretty awful, but civil wars are like this. If no side can prevail quickly, the suffering starts to increase exponentially and this has been going on in Syria for nearly 6 years now. After this long even a return to the bad old days of Assad must be looking pretty good. Few people want Assad in power and nobody wants to reward the Russians for their tactics, but what alternative is there? It’s about time the West realised this, and understood that the poor souls in Aleppo are going to die horribly but hopefully they’ll be the last who do.
Not that I think any of this is the West’s fault, save for perhaps their role in extending the war by providing whatever minuscule assistance they did to the opposition (no, I don’t believe the CIA had a role in fomenting the civil war or “destabilising” Assad any more than I think they left Russia with no choice but to invade Ukraine). Others disagree, though:
George Osborne has told MPs that they share some responsibility for the terrible events happening in Syria.
The ex-chancellor said the unfolding tragedy in Aleppo had not “come out of a vacuum” but was due to “a vacuum of Western and British leadership”.
Parliament had helped enable a “terrorist state” to emerge by voting against military intervention against the Assad regime in 2013, he said.
No, sorry. I don’t know and don’t care why individual MPs voted against intervention in Syria in 2013, but there were an awful lot of very good reasons for doing so and not very many for getting involved. Top of the list of reasons why not to get involved was our experience in Iraq and a public who is damned tired of fighting people who hate us supposedly on behalf of people who also hate us. Britain made a lot of enemies by helping to rid Iraq of Saddam Hussein, and there was very little by way of gratitude from those who we ostensibly came to save. We Brits are a thick-headed lot, but we seem to have learned our lesson in that regard: no more wars thanks, at least not for a while. And especially no more wars to bring peace and democracy to Arabic lands ruled by oppressive dictators. We’ve had a gutful of that, and all that comes with it.
However, those who really need to take note are those who live in the Middle East and places like it. The US-led intervention in Iraq was deemed a “war on Muslims” and the Americans and their allies demonised in every possible way by locals and foreigners alike for how they executed the war and handled the aftermath. They were not just criticised, which would have been more than justified, they were made out to be a rogue nation, carrying out atrocities on a scale not seen since World War II. This was bollocks on stilts.
But the demonisation worked. Well done. America and its allies were detested, and eventually they left. Only a short time later when people wanted them to come back to prevent yet more butchery, they politely declined. Instead the locals got an altogether different military turning up, one whose savagery surpasses anything the Americans could dream up never mind get away with, and whose population back home would be completely unconcerned if indeed they bothered to learn about it. And now we have Aleppo. Suddenly the thought of the US military being in charge isn’t so bad is it?
But it’s too late. America’s enemies both in the Middle East and the West who engaged in relentless hyperbole, propaganda, lies, and violence to force Westerners out of that part of the world are now going to have to deal with the grim reality that they’re not coming back, and the Russians are there to stay. There will be people out there, possibly even some spending the night in a cellar in Aleppo waiting for the death squads to come at dawn, thinking they ought to have been more careful what they wished for.