Libertarian Intervention in Syria

Every day more tales or horror erupt from the quagmire of Syria. An embattled regime, with greater momentum, has begun to retake former territories, and the rebels, infused with foreign jihadists, continue their descent into militant Islamism. All the while the world looks on, while despicable evil is perpetrated, and the region is brought closer to wholesale slaughter. With the incredible news from Iran, where a moderate has actually won an election overseen by theocratic fascists, we can see the side of the Middle East that we would like: modernising, forward-looking, and moving away from the brutal and oppressive superstition of the past. This is far from the nightmare in Syria. Over 93,000 people are now thought to have died in the conflict thus far, with over 1.6 million refugees displaced (200,000 of those are currently ensconced in crisis-ridden Turkey). The conflict is widening, and Hezbollah fanatics have crossed the border from the West Bank to fight for Assad. There is a tragic irony in an organisation claiming to represent the oppressed joining forces with an aggressive tyrant. 

The violence is intensifying, as the main players all have entrenched networks of support, and very definite power-bases. The rebels are no longer strong enough to strike at the government’s heartland of Damascus without using terrorist means, and the regime is not likely to engage in suicidal attacks in Aleppo or Homs without using extensive long-range artillery emplacements to batter the opposition from afar.

Both sides are hunkering down, and preparing for the ‘long haul’. But, three years into the Arab Spring already, why has it not always been seen as such? Perhaps we expect, after the rapid triumphs of the Tunisian and Egyptian peoples, that the democratic uprisings will be swift and largely bloodless. The righteous struggle in Libya cost much life and treasure, but was ultimately justified. Why has this not inured the public to the possibility of a more protracted campaign?

Populism has a nasty way to pervert the ways of the world into unrealistic expectation, and we just thought that it would all be as easy as that first glorious year of uprising. That the region no longer conforms to that ideal, however, is no reason not to support the movement for democracy in Syria. ‘No matter how long and hard the road may be’; we must fight for the rights of others, as well as that of ourselves, to experience the freedoms which we libertarians celebrate, in the way that the original speaker of those words would have wanted.

This can be a libertarian struggle. While some may moan about the minor governmental expense, or the breaking of sacred credos regarding pacifism and isolationism, people are dying and being oppressed across the world. Our Ryndian selfishness actually perverts the message of libertarianism, as the means are seen as too antithetical to our ideals to be worth doing. This is as flawed as it is morally bankrupt.

What socialism used to have going for it was the idea of ‘internationalism’, and the fundamental connection of all peoples, across national borders. The reason why many of the greatest dissenters of the third world have been socialists has been this spirit of co-operation, and equality in status, if not in wealth. Libertarians have the chance to construct this international network of freedom-fighters, and to shape the world among the noble tradition of combating for liberty. But if we forgo this action, in exchange for petty, unrealistic gripes about state involvement, then the world at large will remain as unfree as it ever was.

While Assad remains in power, there will be legitimate democratic opposition. His being in power is the problem for them, and they will not stop fighting until he is defeated. I no longer whole-heartedly support the opposition anymore; no one legitimately can, after the influx of al-Qaeda acolytes to their banner. That the need for their arrival has been a lack of Western support is immaterial, what we now need is a peaceful transition, but that can only come about with the deposition of Assad.

And those voices that we hear with great regularity opposing Western intervention in Syria are hardly ever peaceniks. They do not want us to step back from the conflict in a spirit of total isolation (which would still be immoral, and constitute an anti-democratic evil), they actually want the government to win, and they go about actively supporting Assad’s regime. People like George Galloway, and the like, who have made careers out of traipsing around the Middle East, and praising tyrants the world over.

Their support should be invalidated. Galloway lies about the supposed ‘freedom’ in Syria, and continues an unrepentant support for the Castro regime in Cuba and the former Chavez monstrosity in Venezuela. I hope that our government sees it fit to remove Assad from the picture, in the same way that my government would have dealt with Chavez long before the tumour did.

In this case, the ends would justify the action taken. If government spending needs to go up, that others may achieve the freedom that we so take for granted, so be it. If we need to deploy soldiers, who may be killed – let’s make no secret of it – then so be it, but only if the outcome achieved is successful in spreading the liberty which we defend with such zeal at home.

Long term aims are different to short-term preferences, and since both sides are now steeped in bloodshed and sinister deeds, we must act; as soon as possible. The ‘red line’ of Assad’s chemical weaponry has been crossed, and if the rebels, too, have used sarin, then this is even more reason to involve ourselves. A force for stabilisation must be assembled, and we must not content ourselves by arming proven extremists among the rebellion or sitting idly on the wayside. Some intervention is imperative, that we may remove Assad, and finally move on to the distant democratic future which is vanishing fast.

  • Lee Jenkins

    An eloquent piece, but sadly written with the heart and not the head

    “government’s heartland of Damascus”

    The govt does not have a heartland. If you mean the Alawyte group that dominates the upper echelons of power, their principle base is in fact on the North East coast of the country, between Lebanon’s northern birder and Turkey.

    “after the rapid triumphs of the Tunisian and Egyptian peoples, that the
    democratic uprisings will be swift and largely bloodless.”

    What, exactly was democratic about those uprisings? The catalyst for the rebellion in Lybia was at first military, when the Benghazi Garrison mutinies, then tribal. And according to the last UN reports, there is now less freedom in Tunisa than there was under Ben Ali.

    “While Assad remains in power, there will be legitimate democratic opposition”.

    Really? I don’t seem to recall any of dozen or so groups claiming leadership of the rebellion having any more of a democratic mandate than Assad and is thugs have.

    “what we now need is a peaceful transition, but that can only come about with the deposition of Assad.”

    That’s odd, because only last month Assad offered peace talks, but the FSA’s political wing (after much internal squabbling) refused to attend.

    “if the outcome achieved is successful in spreading the liberty which we defend with such zeal at home.”

    There are no laws, treaties, or obligations that compel us to spread our model of government at the point of a bayonet.

    “A force for stabilisation must be assembled,”

    Who would provide the troops? To secure a country the size
    of Syria would require in excess of one hundred thousand troops. The US
    would wince at pouring troops and treasure into yet another hostile
    Muslim country. Europeans would barley be able to muster twenty
    thousand, and even then only for a very limited time. For historic
    reasons Turkish troops could not take part in any great numbers. And the
    Arab League simply doesn’t have those kinds of numbers to throw around.
    The UN is a complete non-starter as Russia and (probably) China would
    veto any resolution.

  • Han Solo

    This is a simple Suni vs Shite conflict…NOTHING that anyone does from the outside will have any impact on that at all.

  • Richard

    This article pollutes the meaning of libertarianism.