Once again we are treated to the unedifying experience of watching and listening to our political leaders making fools of themselves. They never seem to learn anything. The latest example of muddled thinking comes in response to the ongoing civil war in Syria. Unable to materially affect this civil war, many Western leaders descend into posturing and making grand gestures. The latest is the decision by the EU to allow shipments of weapons to Syria. A decision led by the UK and France. Interestingly the two former colonial powers in the Middle East and the two European states still harbouring notions of imperial grandeur. Sending weapons to Syria means further arming the opposition. For some reason our leaders have decided to support the various rebel groups in this bloody war. As yet no-one has explained just what vital UK interest is at stake in who runs Syria. We can take it as given that our leaders have no real interest in promoting democracy in the region. I’ll believe that when the UK and France start to impose sanctions on Saudi Arabia and Bahrein, to name but two of our so called undemocratic friends in the region. No matter who is in power in Syria, that relatively small country can in no way threaten the UK or any of its vital interests anywhere. I can only conclude that the UK and alas France too, have colluded in this on the grounds that getting rid of the Assad regime would weaken Iran and might weaken Hezbollah in the Lebanon. Though again this all begs the question of what vital UK or French interests are at stake in Iran or the Lebanon. It cannot be the fear of destabilising the region, for the biggest threat to peace in the region is the ongoing aggression of Israel. About which our great leaders do absolutely nothing.
Quite what exactly motivates the UK and France in this instance, other than delusions of grandeur and the need to be seen to co-operate with the USA, is a bit of a mystery. However the practical results of this policy, if carried through, can only be disastrous for Syria. The country already seems to be awash with arms of all shapes and sizes. So providing even more can only result in even more dead and seriously injured Syrians. Not to mention even more refugees fleeing into the Lebanon and Jordan. And who precisely will be the recipients of any Franco-British arms? The Syrian opposition is made up of a motley bunch who at times seem to hate each other more than Assad. The track record of Western armed support and actual intervention in other countries does not inspire one with optimism. The arming of the opposition forces in Afghanistan for example was all to do with opposition to the USSR than any care for the people of Afghanistan. And while the opposition, including a certain Bin Laden, did expel the Soviets, the result was more bloodshed and eventually the Taliban coming to power. The same Taliban that are now fighting agains the Western installed regime in Kabul. For an excellent overview of the dangers of arming rebel groups see this article by Daniel Larison.
The ongoing civil war in Syria is a tragedy for the people involved, but it is not clear that there is anything meaningful that we in the West can do to bring it do a swift conclusion. And only a swift conclusion will end the bloodshed. We could invade the country, but having done that with spectacular ineptitude in Iraq and Afghanistan, not many people would regard this approach as much of a way forward. If the UK and France feel compelled to do something to alleviate the suffering then they could perhaps finance and support the various refugee camps that have sprung up in neighbouring countries. But, please to not send even more deadly weapons to Syria. That is the last thing that Syrians need.