Syria is the latest manifestation of the gross and sordid failure of the United Nations Security Council in its present form to be able to assure transparent, fair and honest approach to dealing with issues of great importance to the security of the world. The need and urgency to reform the UN-SC has never been greater. Veto-wielding permanent members of the Council have all (without exception) used their votes in manners which have very often reflected their national interest than that of the world peace or world community as a whole.
And the killings continue
Sadly and tragically, the slaughter of the innocents in Syria continues while the world elects to talk, condemn, hold conferences, talk and talk some more, and at the same time appearing to be unable to do anything to stop the loss of innocent lives of the most vulnerable. History appears to be repeating itself as political and diplomatic games are played out.
Bashar al-Assad of Syria has lost all moral de jure claim to executive administrative leadership in his role and function as President of Syria which is evidenced by his gross administrative leadership in either actively or passively condoning the increasing evolution of violence against the Syrian people many of who are children he was sworn in to protect as chief executive of that country.
China and Russia must be held to strict account for their non-prescriptive diplomatic actions in either encouraging Assad to persevere in terms of maintaining the status quo or in not being forthright in their assuasive condemnation of the internal violence against the Syrian people. There are no apparent reasons for the violence other than the fact that Assad’s leadership is being questioned as being of prescriptive legitimacy which may impact on the leadership elites governing China and Russia as being of primary soundness in terms of legitimate governance status.
While one would have liked to see the problem in Syria from the point of view of ‘wrong is wrong’ and ‘right is right’, one has to bear in mind that unfortunately, in international law, this is not always the case. International diplomacy involving sovereignty issues and problems are often nuanced and obscured, involving both tradition and history which must be considered if an effective and sustainable solution is to be found. The international community does have a fundamental ordinal responsibility to act beyond mere words. The standard word prose being advanced by diplomats over these past 15 months resulting in only continued internal strife and death of the most vulnerable has illustrated in a manner most manifest that time for extraordinary measures is now!
One of the key raisons d’être of the United Nation is to guarantee the protection of innocent lives against massacres and genocides either from external aggressors or internal despots. The responsibility to protect is part of the charter of the world body and the Security Council has been the principal organ for ensuring that this responsibility to protect is recognized as being of fundamental importance and to which all Nation States ought to be obliged to respect.
Syria is the latest manifestation of the gross and sordid failure of the United Nations Security Council in its present form to be able to assure transparent, fair and honest approach to dealing with issues of great importance to the security of the world. The need and urgency to reform the UN-SC has never been greater. Veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council have all (without exception) used their votes in a manner, which unfortunately have very often reflected their private national interest rather than that of the world community as a whole.
Russia and China might be the latest culprits, and the situation in Syria is dire with atrocities being committed against innocent people. But they are by no means the only ones. It is no secret that the United States use of its veto power in what most people would consider as very irresponsible has been one key reason why the Israeli-Palestinian issue has remained unresolved till today. There exists a credibility gap, which makes it difficult to isolate China and Russia as the only malefactors in articulation of a policy as to what ought to be done prescriptively.
Yet, while the reform of the Security Council is not a debate matter for the immediate, the UN must find a way to immediately bring serious direct actions against Bashar al-Assad. He has to realize that he is only just clinging on to the office of president by the rule of the gun, and that this is in no way acceptable as might no longer connotes right.
Assad has lost all credibility to govern
Assad is most profoundly ill-suited to continue as the president of Syria. His actions of atavistic violent fear grounded leadership has only generated despair and violence upon the most vulnerable Syrians as evidenced in the most recent slaughter of innocent people. Standard western nation Westphalian de facto rationalizations for Assad’s continued exercise of presidential authority/power are no longer valid. Bashar al-Assad must now stand down or be displaced by an external interim caretaker transitional authority. This authority should be charged only with the responsibility and mandate of ensuring a prescriptive peaceful civic electoral transfer of power and authority to the Syrian people.
Syria is a lot more complicated than most people had realized, and this makes finding a solution to the current crisis very difficult. In addition to the ethnic divide, there is today, a complex mix of groups operating within the country, and the western allies are having an uncomfortable situation of being on the same side as terrorist groups that include al Qaida. Arming the rebels would risk arming such groups and creating the potentials for destabilizing the whole region on the long run.
Its a war! There are no saints out there.
It is also a fact that serious crimes are being committed not just by the Assad forces but also by the opposition. While the government forces are committing the greatest attrocities with heavy weaponry of the State, the opposition groups are resorting to deadly tactics aimed at further discrediting the government. Those who choose to see this conflict from a black and white perspective are either naive or dishonest.
Serious mistakes were made at the onset of the crisis. Swift success in Libya had spurred on those who wanted to see changes in Syria but who forgot that situations in both countries were not identical. Rather than encouraging any form of dialogue, opposition groups were encouraged to rise up in arms.
China and Russia both reject Western governments’ insistence that Assad must go. They would rather like to see a peace process coming from within Syria itself. The great obstacle in this is that it is hard to see how the opposition would accept allowing Assad to participate in any manner of any interim arrangement. Such is the level of animosity. Seeing that they have the wind on their side with western pressure being exerted on Damascus, it is hard to see how efforts to narrow differences between the two sides could yield any fruits.
When words of condemnation are no longer enough
The international community which espouses good governance as expressed in the multiplicity of press releases condemning Assad’s violent internal control must now not just stand idle. Mere words of self-serving condemnatory rectitude can no longer assuage the most vulnerable in Syria: A nation now racked and roiled in disharmonic social violence lending to a complete breakdown in the fundamental rule of law. Yet, realistically, the best hope that Western capitals now have is that the defections from the Assad government will gather pace, or at least continue, and that the regime implodes.
One would hope that the United Nations has learned some lessons from Liberia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda and even Bosnia. To ensure that lessons from past disasters were learnt in order to prevent others in future, the then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, appointed Lakhdar Brahimi, Algerian Ambassador to the UN to lead a panel of peacekeeping experts to examine-analyze-prescribe the UN’s future role in conflict (peacekeeping) zones.
The Brahimi report which was released in summer 2000 recommended a series of revolutionary innovations, which are now practiced by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) of the UN. It recommended among others, that the whole peacekeeping operation needs to be speeded up, with traditional consent-based peacekeeping operations dispatched within thirty days, more complex ones within ninety days. It also called for the relationship between the Secretariat and the Security Council to be strengthened and clarified: “The Secretariat must tell the Security Council what it needs to know, not what it wants to hear“, when formulating or changing mission mandates.
The Brahimi report’s most important recommendation was a crucial psychological-emotive shift. UN troops must no longer stand by while civilians are being massacred around them, if they can intervene. The report argued that while consent of the local parties, impartiality, and the use of force only in self-defense must remain the three pillars of peacekeeping operations, these concepts are fungible and open to interpretation.
No failure did more to damage the standing and credibility of the United Nations peacekeeping in the 1990’s than the UN’s reluctance to distinguish victim from aggressor. Interestingly, when the Rwandan genocide occurred, Kofi Annan was the head of UN/DPKO. It is the opinion of this author that he failed to exercise moral prescriptive leadership at the time.
The result was, over 800,000 men, women and children slaughtered. The memory of this no doubt haunts him today as he shuttles round the capitals seeking ways to resolve the present crisis.
The international community has an ontological fundamental responsibility to protect. Failing to act only reinforces the status quo existing in petty despotic nation states whose leadership still believes that internal national sovereignty regardless of tyranny and violence is an absolute right not to be subject to external involvement. Such external involvement could only be sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council. But to be able to perform, the Council needs credibility. The scoreboard currently shows for all the five permanent members less of credibility and a lot more of hypocrisy.
Despots the likes of Bashir al-Assad of Syria and Omar al-Bashir of Sudan will eventually face the International Criminal Court. The question is, before that happens, how many innocent people have to die?
The author of this article, Monte McMurchy is a member of the Editorial Board of Read-Online.Org. He is a member of UNDP Democratic Governance Roster For Electoral Systems, Member of UNDP Expert Roster For Crisis Prevention and Recovery, and Member of UNDP Expert Roster For Parliamentary Development. He has 20+ years international experience in Civic Electoral Building and Civil Capacity Good Governance Development under the aegis of CIDA-USAID-OSCE-CoE-Commonwealth-UNDP-UN.(Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the editorial position of Read-Online.Org