So. I consider myself ignorant on the whole Syria thing. Unlike the feminist and other political issues I usually blog on, I didn’t academically study or do my own research or personally experience or interview people about Syria. If you’re looking for intelligent commentary, move along. If you’re looking for a (hopefully) intelligent argument, stick around.
The argument from duty
Our politicians were elected by Brits to represent the interests of Brits.They have a duty to care for us. While it sounds harsh, they should put our needs before the needs of people they don’t have duties to. This is even more important when you remember that the Government continually vilifies the poor and disabled for scrounging off the State. Yet they’re going to throw away billions on Syria? Our use of food banks has recently skyrocketed and people are living without electricity, committing suicide and dying because of the DWP – and instead of helping the poor of this country they will spend the money on people in another country?
The argument from “ahem…”
As the UK is currently being investigated by the UN for breaching human rights in regards to the bedroom tax and David Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May both want to scrap human rights in Britain, perhaps we aren’t in a position to moralise. The USA used chemical weapons in Fallujah – a bit of an embarrassment since their justification for attacking Syria is Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons against his civilians.
…Which segues neatly into The argument from moral colonialism
Isn’t it a bit patronising for the UK and USA to declare that they have the moral high ground and therefore the right to invade Syria? All Heads of State are supposed to be equal. Attacking Syria means placing Obama and Cameron as superior to Assad and having the authority to pass judgement on him and the right to violate Syria’s sovereignty. Given the UK’s bloody history of colonialism and the USA’s treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo (to name just two atrocities) we can hardly claim the moral high ground. It’s also a tad patronising to play the hero ‘saving’ these poor Syrian people as if they need our help and can’t get rid of Assad themselves.
The argument from ‘Who gets to decide?’
Reporters are obviously able to contact rebel forces and film UK women who have gone to Syria to fight Assad. In areas of Syria which are less chaotic there might still be internet access. So why don’t we ask the Syrians what they want? With Libya, the rebels requested NATO’s aid. If Syrians want our aid then that would be a good reason to go to war. It would obviously be difficult to sample the opinions of the majority of Syrians but it would be possible to at least get some views. Syrians should have control over their own fate. It was the drawing up of Syria’s borders by colonial powers which forced diverse ethnic and religious groups to live together and possibly indirectly caused the current turmoil in Syria. Foreign intervention in Syria caused the current problem so we shouldn’t be quick to do it all over again.
The argument from motives
Help rebels- or a minority- overcome the government -or powerful, priveleged majority- and your state can help shape the infant government, snatching up great treaty deals and continuing to influence the state for decades to come as a sort of political ‘colony’. Though the UK used to have a vast empire we gave up our last colony, Hong Kong, in 1997. Is Cameron having Empire Dreams? (See, that’d be a great title for a song). Thatcher played the same game – supporting Pol Pot– last time the Tories were in power.
Going to war because the USA wants to is not something that needs to be repeated (again). It’s also not a very good reason. The USA’s reason for war is because Assad is using chemical weapons. Apparently bombing and torturing his citizens is fine but not using chemical weapons. It seems suspeciously like a deliberately constructed reason.
The argument from consequences
Will the toppling of Assad lead to a democracy or just another dictator? Perhaps a non-secular dictator. The motives of all of the rebels are not clear. Some want democracy but others may be in favour of a religiously based government or one which priveleges their interests. If we go to war it will be to protect the Syrian people. But lots of Syrians will die as a result. Is being hit by one of our bombs that’s intended to save you really so much better than having chemical weapons used against you? I think not.