What we see in Syria now illustrates the inability of global leaders to lead and offer strategic vision of engagement with each other that would enable a more constructive and pragmatic approach to problem-solving. Not only does this harm great power interests but with a look at the ever worsening humanitarian crisis in and around Syria it also makes a mockery of the values they purport to defend.
Military action, limited or otherwise, is not the answer to the much more fundamental problems that the region faces and poses. It is likely not even part of that answer. The quicker we move beyond the narrow debate over military responses to a more comprehensive strategy, the better for Syria, the Arab Spring, and ultimately for us.
The White House announced that the US would start providing military aid to some of the rebel groups, but it remains unclear whether arming rebel groups in Syria will contribute to achieving the stated aims of US and UK policy: to save lives, to pressure the Assad regime to negotiate seriously, and to prevent the growth of extremism and terrorism.
President Obama’s confirmation that the United States would begin arming Syrian rebels has prompted an urgent debate about both the legality and the effectiveness of the decision.
The significance of Syria, from a regional perspective and apart from the worsening humanitarian crisis, is that the intensely bloody conflict there may be a sign of what the region as a whole may yet experience. Syria is a likely catalyst for such a regional escalation and a definite battle field for the proxy wars already happening.
The international community’s capacity for conflict management remains a potentially highly effective, albeit not flawless, instrument for managing a wide range of security challenges, which, however, will be applied, as it always has, selectively and in line with the national interests of the great powers.
Three ‘ingredients’ are essential in managing processes such as the Arab Spring and their aftermath successfully: leadership, diplomacy, and institutional design.
The international community must remain realistic about the speed and comprehensiveness of the success of the Arab Spring but should remain committed and determined in its support of the genuine democratic aspirations of the people who have started these revolutions.