Thursday, September 15, 2016

Still Syria

Hey, here’s a blog post sequel that’s been a long time coming.

Way back in 2013, I did a post called Suddenly Syria which looked at the proverbial shitstorm going on in that Middle Eastern country and the crossroads that President Obama was facing on what the hell to do about it.

So how do things look in the four years since I wrote that? “Not too good” would be an accurate answer; it would also be woefully inadequate which turn would pretty much described the efforts to pull Syria back from the mouth of hell.

Will the announcement of a cease fire this week actually hold? Negotiated by the United States and Russia, Syria has to stop shooting at rebels for 7 days and the rebels have got to stop shooting Syrian government troops for 7 days. If they can make it 7 days without shooting each other, provisions for a hopefully more lasting peace will kick in. 

Seven days can be an eternity when tensions are high. One stray shot could upend the whole deal. And war will rage on once more. 

The war has raged on in Syria for years with casualties mounting and people fleeing; it’s a wonder there’s anyone left to shoot at after 4 years.  But as troubling as it is that this hell on earth warzone is still cooking, it’s also disturbing to realize the ripple effects Syria’s war has had on the rest of the world.

The war in Syria is so bad, people are fleeing the country by thousands, millions. These refugees have made their way to Europe where they have not always been welcomed. A lot of countries tightened up their borders, driven by fear, racism and Islamophobia. This funnel the refugees to the few remaining countries that were not going to refuse to extend human compassion and aid. But even with good intentions, those countries have found their resources overwhelmed, leaving both the refugees and citizens extremely frustrated.

This massive influx of refugees has driven right wing political groups from being marginal entities to becoming major players, stirring political fervor with promises to seal off borders and deny refugees entry, particularly those who are Muslim. It was such a political movement that took hold in the United Kingdom which lead to the UK’s hard right engineering a vote for the UK to leave the European Union in order to preserve Britain’s right to manage its own borders. Even though such a move was widely considered to be economic suicide, voters did indeed vote to leave the EU.

Meanwhile, the hard right has made gains in Germany’s government, effectively diminishing the power of President Angela Merkel who was one of the few European leaders who unabashedly stood up and said the Syrian refugees needed help and Germany would do all it could to help. Now Merkel is paying a political price for her human compassion.

While the war in Syria is going on, ISIS and their dickless brethren have been running rampant through the Middle East while making murderous, atrocious attacks in Europe.

Over in the United States, fears of terrorism coupled with fears of unrestrained immigration across our borders have forced the Republican Party even farther to the right which culminated in the nomination of Donald Trump to represent the party in the election for President.

Some of the connections are tenuous while others are more direct. Syria’s civil war has shaped so much of world history over the last four years.

Four years ago, we stood on a precipice. Faced with President Assad using chemical weapons against his own citizens, President Obama said such actions would not go unanswered, that the use of such weapons was a line that could not be crossed without a strong and decisive response from the United States and the international community.

It was a response that never came.

It was a bold statement that President Obama should’ve never made. The failure to back up his words with actions caused any goodwill towards the United States to evaporate in the desert sun. Assad was emboldened and the forces of violence and anarchy in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East saw no retribution for their actions.  So Syria continues to shatter, refugees flood Europe, forces of hate and exclusion are rising up in Europe and America.

It should be understand that any military actions taken by Obama and our allies in response to Assad’s war crimes against the Syrian people may not have saved the day. Things may have, in fact, gotten worse. There were damn few options 4 years ago.

Syria made news in the US’s Presidential campaign when Libertarian candidate Gary “Bud” Johnson was asked what, as President, would he do about Aleppo, the central city in Syria where most of the fighting has taken place and those Syrians who remain are trapped in a humanitarian crisis. Johnson’s reply to this inquiry was to ask, “And what is Aleppo?”

But now we have a cease fire deal brokered by the United States and Russia had brokered. Maybe this one will hold but what we know from history does not hold out much hope for the future. But without hope, what do we have left?  

Thanks for dropping by. Back tomorrow with another post. Until then, remember to be good to one another. 

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