The inadmissibility of chemical weapons on the battlefield was as early as 1899 an international principle of war. As is often pointed out, even Hitler -- himself the victim of a gas attack -- recoiled from their use in battle. The First World War scrubbed battle of its supposed virtues and in the place of heroism instituted the practical diplomacy of a League of Nations.
Syrians were peacefully protesting neoliberal economic policies -- the same economic policies that are poisoning Canada -- and the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad. They were hoping for a stronger, more sustainable economic model, coupled with a more democratic form of government. Unfortunately, the movement for peace, economic justice, and democracy, was hijacked.
If we subscribe to that old Washington truism that all it takes to be a "foreign policy expert" in America is to "enjoy talking about foreign policy," it's striking how little consensus within that class there seems to be on the matter of reigning in the murderous killocracy of President Bashar al-Assad.
The international community has not only failed to live up to its responsibility to protect civilians from mass atrocity crimes but its very inaction has encouraged escalating criminality by the Assad regime. With the crossing of the red line on chemical weapons use refocusing international attention on Syria, we risk losing credibility -- and more Syrians risk losing their lives -- should we not start now taking meaningful action to protect civilians in Syria. To that end, it is critically important that any intervention adhere to the requirements of international law.
There is no discernible tactical benefit to the U.S. getting involved in Syria. In fact, there is every reason to stay away -- to let two enemies continue their war against each other to the bitter end, then re-evaluate how to engage (or not) whomever emerges. The only good reason for the Americans to get involved is humanitarian.
Analysts and pundits will be all over themselves trying to find a "winner" in this conflict between Gaza and Israel. While the world's cameras and attention were turned to Gaza and Israel (and rightfully so), the Syrian regime sustained its killing of Syrians at the usual pace of over 100 civilians per day. Not only did Assad gain from having the media shift focus to one of the longest enduring conflicts of the region, the Syrian dictator also benefited from returning the anti-colonialist narratives to deciphering the Middle East.
The announcement in Qatar on November 10 of the formation of the Syrian National Coalition with an elected president is an event of monumental importance, in my opinion. There will be the usual misgivings and apprehensions about the chaos that is expected to follow the collapse of any of these very long Arab dictatorships but none of that will materialize, and the Syrian nation as a whole will do quite well, with a little help from its friends.
The stage was set at Boca Raton's Lynn University. The desk dusted, chairs put in place and zingers primed and ready for volleying. Oh, and it was supposed to be about Foreign Policy. Right? Well it kind of was. Kind of. According to Romney, American grade school teachers are part of American foreign policy. Confused? Wait, there's more...
There is no consensus on military intervention among Syrian opposition, neighbouring countries and UN Security Council members. However, everyone including the regime emphasizes how committed they are to ending the violence. The most effective way to stop the violence quickly would be to deploy a multinational peacekeeping force.
Replacing Bashar al-Assad in Syria is not sufficient. Shedding known problems for ones that are unknown is difficult. In Damascus, the ancient capital, or Aleppo, the nation's economic hub, exchanging a known set of difficulties (even terrible ones), for an unknown state of affairs is a fearful choice. But after the killing of four senior security officials in the very center of Damascus, the shelling of Damascus and the wholesale bombardment of Aleppo, perhaps the risk of doing nothing will finally outweigh the risk of the unknown.
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung called it boldly and rightly a Marshall Plan for Syria -- as a working group lead by our diplomats is helping the Syrian opposition to endorse a free market economy and leave behind Assad's socialism. The initiative by the German Foreign Ministry doesn't come a second too early.
In what can only be described as an act straight from the "theatre of the absurd," comes news that Syria is running for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. That Syria is able to even nominate for the UNHRC in the first place, let alone be in a strong position to win a seat, is reflective of the endemic problem with the body -- the fact that observance of human rights is no barrier to becoming a member.
Now that the UN has finally acknowledged that Syria is in a "full blown civil war," it's even more reason why we of the Western alliance should stay out of it. Harsh as it may seem, intervention would be a mistake. If we (meaning Western democracies) entered the fray, it'll be war by proxy and wouldn't curb bloodshed, but spread it.
Recently the Toronto District School Board suspended an Islamic school's operating permit after its Iranian-sponsored textbooks were found to promote anti-semitism and jihad. The Toronto incident, however, is not an isolated one: Another program, this one offered in an Ottawa public elementary school, relied on similarly controversial materials.
After a year or so of killing people in areas that protest his dictatorship, Assad apparently has agreed to withdraw troops from killing zones -- starting some 10 days after making his promise to former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. What the hiatus does is give Syrian forces breathing space to further crush anti-government elements and destroy towns that harbour rebels.
The recent six-point multilateral agreement on Syria is a breakthrough for those seeking to end the country's horrific yearlong bloodbath. But despite overwhelming agreement that the killing must stop, a lack of shared opinion on whom or what to support now threatens to dash any hope of a ceasefire taking effect.