Probing International Security

The Oxymoronic Déjà Vu of Humanitarian Bombing in Syria

September 7, 2013

In light of the recent developments in Syria and the apparently imminent US military intervention, the blog will take a short break from its relatively academic style and its thematic focus in order to brainstorm and share some thoughts on the broader picture of what is happening in the geopolitical arena of the region.





Dangerous Double Standards


Bashar al-Assad has reportedly used chemical weapons to attack, essentially, his own people. The first, logically obvious question is why would Assad essentially commit suicide? Why would he do the one thing that was sure to infuriate his enemies, undermine the diplomatic positions of his friends, and alienate all neutrals while he was gradually winning the war, and at a time when UN chemical inspectors were in Damascus? The sceptic observer cannot help but remember the false intelligence on which the 2003 US invasion of Iraq was founded; Saddam Hussein did not in fact possess weapons of mass destruction. The parallel is inescapable.


In May, Carla Del Ponte, leading member of the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, asserted that there had been “strong, concrete suspicions” and evidence that Syrian rebels had used the nerve-gas Sarin. This means two things. First, there are indeed double standards regarding the US stance towards the use of chemical weapons and its justification in support of a military intervention. If the use of CWs is truly a ‘red line’ for the US government, it should be so unconditionally, regardless of who is the perpetrator of such an attack, and it should prompt the same kind of response in both cases. Since there now have been allegations that both sides have used CWs, shouldn’t the US and the UN wait for conclusive proof before taking any direct military action on the side of the Free Syrian Army?


Second, in a setting of such uncertainty and conflicting evidence, the probability of false flag incidents is high. If there was indeed a chemical weapons attack at the capital’s outskirts on August 21, we cannot yet be sure who it really was that pulled the trigger. Logic begs the uncomfortable question: which side would be more willing to carry out a chemical weapons attack against civilians there and then? The Syrian government, while being closely watched by the international community and waited upon to make a fatal mistake, or the Syrian opposition, a loosely composed amalgam of militant groups comprised up to 50% of Islamic extremists and criminals, with al-Qaeda supported elements among its ranks? On one hand, we have the possibility of a militarily inexplicable action by a centralised and largely rational state structure. On the other, the possibility that the side who is apparently willing to employ religious fundamentalism and extremism, with all the customarily associated brutality and blind, vindictive hatred (see hyperlink above), was also willing to stage an attack on civilians to provoke a foreign intervention. The world has already gotten glimpses of the post-Assad Syrian future that such eagerness for revenge is likely to bring. Readers are free to draw their own conclusions.



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