Opinion & Commentary
No easy solutions in Syria
Benjamin Herscovitch | The Drum | 28 May 2012
At the same time, there are worrying signs of Islamist militants entering the fray.
This jockeying for control between the Assad regime, opposition activists and Islamist militants, to name just three major players, means that predicting the outcome of any particular policy response is perilously difficult.
If the complexity of conditions on the ground was not enough, the moral stakes in Syria are dauntingly high. If the international community does not arm the rebels or intervene militarily, the violence will likely continue and the Assad regime will have the upper hand.
However, military support for the Free Syrian Army (FSA) or intervention also comes with significant risks. There is the danger that removing Assad will precipitate internecine warfare and provide militant Islamist groups with an avenue to wield disproportionate influence.
Given these complexities, Michael Brull's broad brush-stroke moralising about humanitarian interventions does not befit what should be a sober debate about the appropriate response to the ongoing violence in Syria.
In the article of mine to which Mr Brull was responding, I argued that the international community should "reconsider its decisions to neither intervene militarily nor arm the FSA". I was not defending what Mr Brull erroneously calls 'brazen militarism' but simply suggesting that the gravity of the situation demands that the international community at least consider a more forceful response.
Beyond misrepresenting my own views, Mr Brull also ignores recent developments in Syria. The SNC, which Mr Brull says opposes international intervention, is increasingly losing support in Syria. Tribal and minority figures have little confidence in the SNC, and it has been accused of being aloof and unrepresentative.
Perhaps most importantly, Mr Brull sidesteps the true nature of the international community's choice. In the absence of military support for the FSA or military intervention, the violence is unlikely to cease. The Assad regime's attacks on the Syrian people and reprisals by comparatively poorly armed opposition groups will continue.
The international community's choice is therefore not between peaceful non-intervention and violent military action. As Steven Heydemann and Reinoud Leenders observe: "The question we face at this point ... is not a false choice between non-violence and militarisation."
The choice is between a continuation of what is approaching chaotic civil war and a concerted, albeit difficult and costly, international push to support an indigenous opposition.
The Syrian people are demanding regime change. They have been willing to die for it for over 14 months. It behoves the international community to explore options beyond mere diplomacy to help them achieve the freedom for which they have already sacrificed so much.
As difficult and dangerous as military support for the FSA or military intervention might be, Mr Brull would do well to remember that there are no easy options in Syria.
Herscovitch and Brull studied philosophy together at University of New South Wales and are friends. Benjamin Herscovitch is a policy analyst at the Centre for Independent Studies. View his full profile here.