Sunday, 14 December 2014

Humanitarian aid is important but won’t stop the war

This is a guest post by Daniel Wickham, and first appeared as a series of tweets.

If we all agree that letting Syria descend into a civil war fought primarily between equally bad actors – the Assad regime on one hand, and extremist groups like ISIS and al-Nusra on the other – is not what we want, doesn’t that make the only logical solution to strengthen those caught in between?

As long as Assad has the upper hand against the mainstream rebels, and the world is distracted by ISIS, the chance of an agreement with a long-term ceasefire seems almost non-existent. That can surely only happen if the Syrian regime faces serious, violent internal pressure to make a deal, or is overthrown either in part or entirely, neither of which is likely to happen unless the mainstream rebels are supported.

That doesn’t mean *any* mainstream rebels, but specifically those who do not target and murder civilians, and can be made to abide by IHL.

Humanitarian aid is important but won’t stop the war, and the current air campaign against ISIS seems to be only strengthening the regime. To stop ISIS, there has to either be a deal followed by concessions or an overthrow of the regime, which is its most effective recruiter. What other way can that happen except through a strengthening of (certain) mainstream rebels and perhaps even an air campaign vs. Assad?

On a personal note, it really pains me to advocate policies like bombing, but I just don’t see how else the slaughter can be stopped/slowed. When it comes to tragedies like Syria, you have to look beyond your own ideological biases and ask what is the best of the bad options? I’ve said this before and been accused of supporting imperialism. But remember, the policy I’m advocating is aggressively opposed by the US.

To be honest though, I couldn’t care less what the US establishment or its opponents think about Syria. The uprising is not about them. It’s about people who are being starved, murdered and besieged simply for wanting to be free from a cowardly and murderous tyrant. And at the end of the day, I’d rather show solidarity with them than fake ‘anti-imperialists’ sitting in the West. A million times over.

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