08.18.2012 12:00 AM

In Sunday’s Sun: Syria and war

It is far easier to get into a war than to get out of one. As the civilized world reflects on what to do about Syria, that truism bears remembering.

The grim statistics, however, continue to shock us all: Tens of thousands of Syrians dead, in excess of two million wounded or displaced. Most, civilians — women and children. Atrocities are commonplace, with new horrors being perpetrated by Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad every day.

The usual measures — condemnations, diplomatic censures, embargoes — have done nothing to stop the killing of innocents. With the complicity of China and Russia, and with the military support of Iran, Syria’s little Hitler has survived far longer than anyone predicted he would.

Meanwhile, the pogroms continue apace. At some point, we aid and abet the bloodshed. Armenia, the Ukraine, Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, the Sudan, and of course the Holocaust. All that is necessary for the triumph of evil, as Edmund Burke famously observed, is for good people to do nothing. History shows us that much.


  1. Informed says:

    You mention Rwanda. A certain general could have apparently prevented that atrocity but instead decided to follow the UN bureaucratic chain of command. Sad.

  2. Anne Peterson says:

    Perhaps an arms boycott right at the beginning instead of various world factions selling the killing stuff. I notice that the world factions: US, Russia, Britain, China, whoever can gain) always line up on their side of the fence in these minor wars (if any war can be called minor considering the people hurt by them) and supply arms to whichever side might benefit them strategically. Then the rest of the world (NGOs, NATO, winners allies,) are asked to clean up the mess. And the mess can never be cleaned up.

    Just stop the arms sales – what are they over a trillion a year in the world. Just think….spent constructively…….

  3. dillon says:

    If “We” refers to Canada .I’m afraid Canada does not have the army required to have any effect at all. A force of 1000-1500 men is all we are capable of supplying. The UN is totally powerless to obtain a Security Council resolution in favor of intervention. The only country with the power to put an end to this war is the US. Obama is AWOL when it comes to military intervention in Arab states. The only solution is to pray that Romney is elected and he can put together an international coalition force like Bush jr and senior did to deal with Syria and Iran before they get the nuclear weapons.

    • bluegreenblogger says:

      I think you have missed the point. It is not boots onthe ground missing, it is armaments for the ‘opposition’ forces that is missing. Canada is also part of a military alliance that has shown increasing propensity to engage in foreign wars, I think it ios fair to assume that Canada’s influence within NATO, and access to armaments is far more significant in this case than troops ready to send into harms way. That isn’t an argument in favour of intervention, merely notingthat Canada has abundant resources with which to successfully intervene should ‘we’ be so unwise.

      • dillon says:

        Hopefully we never become arms sellers to groups that are bent on the destruction of the western world. The Muslim Brotherhood for example. If you want to intervene man up and do your own fighting. We can’t only the US can. And Romney will, Obama won’t.

      • don craig says:

        the more arms that are supplied .means the more arms that will be left there when this is over..

  4. dillon says:

    There is hope. The latest Gallup poll shows Romney-47%


  5. bluegreenblogger says:

    Warren, the 5 points you raised in your article largely boil down to ‘The friend of my enemy is my enemy’, except of course for point 5, and they are not very convincing arguments. Comparing the Assads to Libya, and using Libya’s past actions as a basis to go to war with Syria just does not cut ice. There are many instances where the Syrian Government has gone beyond the pale, but comparatively speaking they have been far less odious than Iran, or Hezbollah. I would posit that ‘destabilising Iran’ is seriously not a wise outcome to be seeking at this juncture. Iran is at the cusp of mass producing nuclear weapons, and if destabilized, do you think that Irans nuclear facilities will somehow fall into the hands of Iranian ‘doves’? Nope, those in control can be counted on to be nuclear hawks, and will weaponise just as quickly as they possibly can. Syrian accomodation of Iran is just not that significant though. It will not destabilise Iran to lose a proxy war in Syria, which is why they use proxies. Irans leadership can disown proxies at the blink of an eye, containing any domestic repercussions of the loss nicely. Hizbullah will find new sponsors, and will likely be driven deeper into Irans arms without an alternate power base in Syria. Weakened undoubtedly, but their grievances will not disappear with Assad. Ultimately, Hizbullahs power base is in Lebanon, irrespective of who sends them loot and weapons. The long and short of it is, in my opinion, that the political consequences or regime change to Syria are incalculable, due to the complexity and invisible motives of the Syrian proxies. The means and methods employed will almost certainly twist and turn, and who can say who the victor will be, and what they will do with their victory.
    I think that the best argument (meaning he most effective for spurring an intervention) would be the need to stem the horrific bloodshed. But is inactivity truly the same as complicity? Sometimes, inactivity is simply the recognition that the rightness of intention does not equate to acheiving the desired outcome. Should Assad be killed tomorrow, my guess is that hundreds of thousands of Alawites would die in the weeks and months to follow. Not a very nice punishment for being born into an elite tribe. Syria is even more complicated than Afghanistan, it is more akin to Iraq, and just look how well the Iraqi intervention worked. (NOT) I would guess that the majority of ordinary Iraqis would happily turn back the clock in favour of a brutal dictator over what happened in the name of freeing them from said dictator. We shall see, Idespite my disagreement, I think that your humanitarian argument will probably emerge as a consensus opinion. There will likely be escalating interventions culminating in an ever more brutal conflict. I just hope we do not get sucked into yet another unwinnable war.

    • Philip says:

      Excellent post. When Assad decided to go to the wall instead of leaving, this was only going to end in more bloodshed and more atrocities. There are very few options left for Canada now. Some useful work may be done through Turkey, our long time NATO ally, to help them deal with the refugees and free up military assets to stop Syrian government forces from raiding across the border. Jordan may also be an opportunity for Canada to set up assets to help their refugee situation.

      As for arming the rebels, that’s already being done by some regional players, notably, Saudi citizens. If we elect to arm the Syrian rebels, we must be honest with ourselves and acknowledge those weapons are going to be used to kill a lot of people, some of whom are guilty of nothing more than being in the wrong neighborhood, having the wrong last name or just being unlucky. I don’t think that’s a road we want to go down.

      • Pete says:

        Great post but with one missing piece. This civil war is starting to move into Lebanon and could soon consume that country, at least the hezbollah areas but possibly the whole Country. If it does escalate further into Lebanon the Israelis will become even more nervous and possibly get involved in setting a line in the sand geographically. Beyond that physical line they will defend their “homeland” even though it will be well into Lebanon.

  6. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    Having absolutely no expertise in this area, I will stick to generalizations: if your starting point happens to be that good eventually triumphs over evil, then that in and of itself is reason enough to intervene. But then comes the rub — who intervenes and at what cost? My own view is in favour of intervention but only by Muslim and Arab military forces. IMHO, ours should be a supporting role supplying materiel, logistics and humanitarian aid. Personally, I do not want to see the Libyan pattern repeated with western commandos on the ground and non-Muslim nation planes in the air on bombing runs. Enforcing a no-fly zone is one thing, causing collateral damage on the ground is quite another. (Just ask yourself why Afghans dislike Americans so much. Answer: civilian casualties.)

    In short, the Arab League has to show that they are in the big leagues now. The Sunni-Shiite rivalry has to take a backseat to preventing crimes against humanity and genocide. Some may argue that is not even possible. Perhaps. In my opinion, Syria is one problem with Iran quite another. It would be a mistake to attempt to deal with both in one fell swoop.

    Syria cries out for problem solving today. Iran can be tackled in its own time. Like North Korea before it, Iran may very well get a nuclear weapon — even after massive American and/or Israeli air strikes. Our eyes should be focused on Syria. One way or another, this will inevitably get out of control. Our focus must be on containment and Assad’s removal from power. In my book, it’s not a question of if, but merely a matter of when. The West needs to affect that outcome on the ground, by indirect action, even if it takes another year before the regime finally crumbles.

  7. The problem is that these same arguments for intervention could have been used, and were, to get Canadians into Afghanistan. In that instance, according to my memory, for every casualty up until about the 75th one there would be questions in the newspapers each time, and many liberal idealists did not see our involvement there as peace keeping but as “war.” I remember the radio playing “Bring the Boys Home” by a prominent singer.

    Nobody hates like brothers do: Civil wars just don’t have the same glamour as wars of defence against terrorism. I don’t think Canadians, liberal or otherwise, are ready to have themselves resume dying again, in another “war.”

  8. Soloview says:

    The regime is on the verge of collapse, the defectors from Assad tell us. The rebels just got 20 new spanking Russian T62’s. I’d say, let them sort out things among themselves – unless of course you speak Arabic, understand the country’s demography and recently completed a personal tour of Syria. In which case, I would say, lead by example as the intellectuals did in the Spanish Civil War. You may then come back as wise as George Orwell, who had took a bullet through his throat to learn that the Commies were every bit as bad as the Fascists.


    Best !

    • Philip says:

      It seems as if those pesky Syrian rebels also have the ability to time travel as well. The last T-62 rolled off the Uralvagonzavod production line in late 1974. You might also want to refine your description of the Assad regime as “Commie”. The Assad regime is to Communist what Tony Clement is to honesty, not even remotely connected. But never let a fact stand in the way of a good screed.

  9. Philip says:

    It looks as if President Obama has delivered an ultimatum, use chemical weapons on your own civilians and American military forces will intervene. Assad has form in this area. In the 1980s he used chemical weapons, on his own citizens, in the city of Homs. I have a feeling this is going to be an interesting couple of months.

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