The civil war in Syria has gone on for almost two years now. Western states have not intervened directly and the deployment of US American, Dutch and German Patriot rockets is not a preparation to do so. While Turkey and some Arab states have supported the rebel forces with weapons and equipment none of them has gone all in, while Iran has given large scale aid to forces loyal to the Syrian regime. The war has become prolonged, cruel and bloody.
An effect of this drawn out conflict has been the radicalization of the opposition forces which goes hand in hand with an increasing polarization along ethnic lines. The protest in Syria – as in other countries of the Middle East – started with demands for democracy and freedom but was brutally suppressed by the Syrian government. The militarization of the Syrian opposition can be seen as a reaction to a crackdown by a regime that has never had an interest in accommodating their demands. The radicalization equally is a result of the fact that the conflict has been burning for so long.
Long internal wars have the tendency to become prolonged and fester on for years if one side is unable to win the momentum, cleavages become more and more pronounced and community relations entirely determined by violence. Globalization provides the necessary resources to continue such a conflict.
The conflict in Syria is a new theatre for jihadists who want to acquire experiences at the front-lines. At the same time the Western inaction will feed into the narrative that the West stands idly by when Muslims are killed. If the war in Bosnia and its call to arms for a generation of Jihadists can tell us anything than it is that the Western inaction will have consequences in the future.
The thought to ponder about: could all of this been prevented if the West had reacted differently? A no-fly zone would have prevented the deployment of Syrian air force and would have given the Syrian rebels a better chance of opposing the Syrian regime. However, a lot of intellectual effort was spent arguing why such an intervention would be a dangerous adventure. All of those arguments are well reasoned and thought through. Where the debate falls short, however, is when it comes the consequences of non-intervention.
So after almost two years of war and about 60,000 casualties: would an early intervention have been the better choice?
Photo credit: FreedomHouse2