By Aditi Thakker:
After the international community failed to intervene and stop the Rwandan Genocide in 1994, several concerns cropped up about the international obligations of the international community. Were rich and powerful countries really interested in protecting innocent people in war torn zones, or was it all a game of alliance and profit? To battle this issue, the ICISS published a report called the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), which has been endorsed by the UN and promoted by the US. The question of Syria has been around in the global community for a while. Let’s examine if the current situation in Syria warrants military intervention according to the principles of the R2P. The six conditions that need to be met are:
Just cause —The one question that needs an answer is: “Is there a large scale loss of life, actual or apprehended, with genocidal intent or not, which is the product either of deliberate state action, or state neglect or inability to act, or a failed state situation?” Over 100,000 people have died, 2 million people have fled to other countries as refugees, and 2 million have been displaced internally. It is unlikely that these atrocities, committed by the Assad government as well as the rebels, are going to stop anytime soon. Therefore, strictly speaking in terms of loss of life, there is reason to believe that the Just Cause Threshold can be met.
Right Intention — Is the main intention of the military intervention to prevent human suffering or are there other motives? This question is a tricky one. If the aim of the American Government is to stop human suffering, why have they been turning a blind eye to the plight of the innocent civilians in Darfur and Congo? What but ulterior motives could explain this distinction and preference in intervention? Some may argue that one’s intention does not matter much, if the result it produces is for the better of the Syrian population. How is the Syrian population going to benefit from an intervention that is not even aimed at them?
Final Resort — Has every other measure besides military invention been taken into account? The fact that there is still room for negotiation, and the non-military solution to this problem entails that there may be a just cause, but other peaceful means to resolve the problem have not been exhausted. There are many diplomatic channels that can be resorted to, to end this violence. Channels such as sanctions and arms embargoes have been barely unexplored. Mere criticism from the Arab League or the UN is not going to make the cut.
Legitimate Authority — It is common knowledge that all UNSC members who can authorise intervention are not on the same page when it comes to intervention in Syria. All UNSC members except USA are opposed to any form of military intervention, something that shows the reluctance of the international community to meddle into the domestic affairs of sovereign states.
Proportional Means — The American Government does not intend to send any foot soldiers to Syria. Obama’s no boots on the ground policy, means the intervention will be limited to air strikes. Unfortunately, technology hasn’t advanced to a stage where it can differentiate between the innocent and the troublemakers. Thus, there is going to be indiscriminate bombing, much like the drones in Pakistan and Yemen. Yes, the US Government does claim to identify targets, but their success rate is appalling. A possible three month long air strike, on a nation the size of Syria, is only going to increase the number of ground casualties and refugees.
Reasonable Prospect — Will intervention end human suffering? The US government has to assure the world that the situation in Syria is not going to get worse after intervention. This condition is based on predictions. If past precedent is to be examined, the US failed miserably on this front in Iraq.
Of course, there is no blanket rule that the world can follow on intervention, since every conflict is different and so are the stakeholders; however these conditions can be the starting point to assess the likeliness of success through military intervention. Having examined the situation on six basic principles, intervention in Syria is not only illegal and unnecessary, but can also result in greater loses than the world anticipates. Diplomatic intervention is necessary to protect the Syrian population and reinstate their basic human rights that the UN stands for. Let this war not be yet another example of America’s bid to promote its arms industry. Let it be about the Syrians this time.