Syria: Not Our Problem?

Something I forgot to mention in yesterday’s post: I’ve tried to take an open-minded approach to this crisis, accepting and appreciating viewpoints on either side of the debate, but one argument I have no time for is that Syria is “not our problem.”  You’ll surely have heard other variations of this: “Leave the Muslims alone to kill each other” and other often xenophobic statements.   Fair enough, you might dispute the West’s moral right to intervene in Syria or the effect such intervention might have on our economy, but to suggest that atrocities committed in Syria does not affect us is absolutely wrong.

Firstly, there’s the wishy-washy but strong point that we are all members of the human race and that atrocities committed to some directly affects us all.  If you disagree with this fundamental principle then, logically, you’re arguing that we were right to allow Rwanda’s genocide to happen, that we were wrong to stop Hitler’s holocaust, that any group of human beings can be tortured, massacred and desecrated so long as it doesn’t directly affect us.  This analogy is perhaps overused, but it’s the same as saying that ignoring a stranger being mugged, raped or murdered is morally acceptable.  To be clear, this isn’t necessarily an argument for intervening in Syria but it definitely does make the atrocities committed there the responsibility of us all.

More practically, we share a planet with Syria so naturally anything which happens there will have an impact upon us.  The war could spread to other countries like Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey or Israel, creating more of a problem for all of us.  The destruction of a country’s infrastructure and displacement of millions of its population is bound to have economic ramifications (someone described the strain upon Lebanon and Jordan as being equivalent to the entire Canadian population crossing the border into the USA).  The longer the conflict goes on, the more extreme elements of both the rebellion and government will become, the more weapons will proliferate – and therefore the change instability beyond Syria’s borders and of terrorist attacks against the West will increase rapidly.  Again, not necessarily an argument for intervention, but you simply cannot deny that what happens in Syria won’t affect us.

Whether we decide that conducting military strikes and/or further intervention is right or wrong, there is no doubt that Syria’s war is absolutely the international community’s problem and that it’s in the interests of us all to bring it to an end.

NEWS UPDATE: Since yesterday, the British Parliament has voted on a government motion and Labour’s amendment – both were rejected.  I’m a bit confused about where this leaves us.  The motion supported military action if backed up by appropriate UN evidence, so now this has been defeated will we definitely not be joining the USA’s missile strikes?  Or will a second vote next week in which Labour may or may not support strikes still go ahead?  This is impossible to keep up with!

Yes, that appears to be the case.  Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has confirmed there will be no military action in Syria.  Wow.  For a prime minister and government to be so decisively defeated on an issue of foreign policy must be almost unprecedented.  Can Cameron ever overcome this embarrassment?  Wow.  Um.  If I have enough to say, I think I’ll blog my reactions to this tomorrow when I’m less tired.

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4 thoughts on “Syria: Not Our Problem?

  1. Syria isn’t Libya. There, as George Bush Senior (not the idiot one), militarily it has to be “Doable”. That means it has to be a feasible military option to intervene, unless (like Afghanistan) it’s an absolute imperative.
    Despite the awful situation there, throwing a few missiles at them is going to make no difference. It’s a brutal thing to say, but they’ll just have to get on with it.
    I’m sure Amnesty International would not agree.

  2. Personally I think Cameron backed down because opinion polls showed conclusively that the UK population were against involvement. If he sent troops in against public wishes (again), then come the next election, this would still be fresh in people’s mind, especially if the troops were still there.
    He’s backing out to save his chances in the next election. (at least that’s how I see it).

    Also, it was America pushing for involvement. If he went along with Obama’s request, it would look like he was as much Obama’s lapdog, as Blair was Bush’s.

    • Yeah, from that perspective this is a great instance of British democracy working properly. At the same time though I think it does make Cameron look quite weak, especially because he recalled parliament especially and seemed so confident of a victory.

      It’s worth remembering that sending soldiers to Syria isn’t something that was ever on the table. As far as I’m aware, this debate was solely about a one-off military strike against military targets.

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