War Is Not Humanitarian

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The Economist released this opinion piece (with no byline, so I guess it’s an editorial?) describing how the failure of the US to directly intervene with air support, and potentially troops on the ground, in Syria led to the current situation in Aleppo.  Similar pieces have been flooding well-meaning blogs like Upworthy, mainstream news sites, and saturating the pages of left-leaning commentary like the Atlantic and Salon.  All of them express the same regret – that Western nations and their militaries failed to “do something” to prevent the horrors in Aleppo, where government backed militias are encircling a disputed number of civilians in the final stand off in a four year siege of the city.

Reports are rampant about summary executions and women committing suicide en masse to avoid rape.  These reports are largely unverified, because no Western media are on the ground there – all account come from rebel backed aid groups with strong ties to Western PR firms seeking the fall of the Assad regime.  It is true that Russian and Syrian forces have destroyed all medical and civilian infrastructure in the area, in a manner similar to American tactics during the Taliban occupation of Kunduz.  Life for the remaining people of Aleppo is a nightmare, and the West is indeed partially responsible for it. But not in the way these interventionist pieces claim.

Beware the hawks who want to tell you that Aleppo would not happen if the US “stood up” to Assad, Russia, and Iran. The chastising of Obama for avoiding another open conflict with a Muslim nation is a concerted attempt to replay the post-9/11 interventionist mantra that American ‘values’ can be spread by invasion. They cannot. And Aleppo isn’t a counter example, it proves it further.

Obama and the US did not sit out the Syrian conflict. The CIA and US military is openly and secretly supporting rebel factions with funds, weapons, and logistical support. Our allies like Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states are doing the same. These factions include Al-Qaeda affiliates like Al-Nusra who seek to impose Sunni fundamentalism on the Syrian people, which is a diverse population including many Shia, Druze, Alawites and Christians, all of whom would face brutal reprisal under rebel control. There’s also the not-so-small matter of ISIS which is also backed by Saudi, who stands to gain immensely in the event of regime change. All of this adds up to deliberate intervention in this conflict which has prolonged and polarized it, leading to the abominable siege of Aleppo.

Assad is not a good leader. His reelection in 2014 is far from fully legitimate. But it is the ongoing meddling of Sunni/Salafist powers, backed by American money and guns (many of which poured in from Libya after we distributed them to jihadists there to topple another dictator) that has turned a protest movement and subsequent vicious crackdown into a 4 year civil war and potential holocaust. Russia intervenes directly because their interests were at stake. Likewise with Turkey. And also with us. Direct intervention by the US would not have solved this conflict. It would have put American jets in the firing line of Russian ones in an attempt to install a fundamentalist government in Damascus that would have meant death and displacement to the non-Sunni citizens of Syria. And Aleppo probably would have happened anyway.

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