Posts Tagged ‘International Brigade’

Syria: Where is the International Brigade?

22/04/2013, 04:08:27 PM

by Jonathan Todd

There is much to enjoy and admire in the New Statesman centenary issue. I read of George Orwell taking a bullet through the throat, as he fought in the Spanish civil war. And that John Gray thinks: “For the foreseeable future, no one will rule will world”. The transition from the G7 to the G20 reflected the passing of power to the global south and talk of the G2 denotes the centrality of China and the US but maybe G-zero is more apt in a world without predominant power.

Is the sorrow of Syria a harbinger of a G-zero world that no one, whether reluctantly or otherwise, is willing or able to police? Roosevelt, unlike Hitler and Stalin, was as disinclined to involve his country in the Spanish civil war as Obama has been to date in Syria. Yet Orwell walked towards the bullets. Where are the Orwells of today? If the war in Syria is a war for rights and democracy, why isn’t the International Brigade on the frontline?

The truth is that Syria is sucking in Jihadists who don’t believe in rights and democracy, not liberals prepared to stand up for these values, which is one of various reasons why Syria is not a simple war for rights and democracy. Little is simple in Syria.

Last week Channel 4 showed a documentary by Olly Lambert, who had spent weeks living deep inside Syrian territory – with both government and opposition supporters. Both sides think that the other would exterminate them if they did not fight and that they are opposing the sectarianism of the other. Western liberals, thousands of miles from the frontline, might see their kin in those who have risen up against Assad.

But how confident can the Alawites and other Syrian minorities be that these opposition forces, largely Sunni and increasingly under the influence of Saudi Arabia and Al-Qaeda, will not extract a bloody revenge as soon as they are able? Why wouldn’t these minorities lay down their arms for a future Syria that respected their rights and gave them the vote if this is what the opposition offer?

If the UK were to arm the opposition then we would be risking these arms being used for the persecution of these minorities. Equally, weaponry from Iran and Russia is being used by the Syrian government to persecute their opposition. While such persecution is utterly repellent, it would be to succumb to Bertrand Russell’s fallacy of superior virtue of the oppressed not to be concerned about the sectarian and extremist motives of the opposition.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon