Diplomacy Isn’t Working

August 26, 2013 at 11:46 am

I was speaking to a friend the other day about Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning, whether or not what they did is justifiable and we naturally ended up talking about Iraq and Afghanistan. He was saying that the US still hasn’t learnt its lessons from Vietnam, that regardless of how good your military technology is, if you don’t know the surrounding area very well you’re going to be in for a long hard slog.

At first I agreed, it made sense. But then I got to thinking… Maybe they have learned their lessons. See my friend made the assumption that the US wanted a quick: ‘In, Kill the bad guys, Out’ strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan. But really, where’s the profit in that? The assumption he made implies that the US is a force for good in the world, that they genuinely wanted to help the Iraqis or Afghans, but is that really the case?

Of course not. Where people are involved, nothing is ever quite that simple. There may well have been an element of misguided ‘White Saviour Syndrome’ in the decision making process, but the lobbying system over in the US means that pretty much any decision made by government is guaranteed to have been corrupted by money and corporations at some stage. I wish that Snowden or Manning had stumbled across a document that revealed the decision making process behind the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, but so far they haven’t released anything of that nature so all we can do is look at the situation, see who has benefited most and come up with some conspiracy theories.

If one thing is clear, the civilians on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan have benefited the least. Both countries are now former shadows of themselves, with Iraq now a hotbed of sectarian violence that long ago spiralled beyond anyone’s control and Afghanistan now a wreck of a country where nobody really seems to be in charge. It appears that America made some fatal miscalculations when considering what civilians in both countries actually wanted, if indeed their wishes were even considered. The American assumption was quite simply that everybody in Iraq would be better off without Saddam and that everybody in Afghanistan would be better off without the Taliban, and that they’d be the heroes for delivering such scenarios.

One has to wonder, do the key decision makers recruit Hollywood scriptwriters to devise their plans? It could well be the case that an Iraq without Saddam or an Afghanistan without the Taliban would both be better places, but what was clearly not considered was the method of their removal. An invasion by a foreign military force was only ever going to divide the populations, fear of the unknown does terrible things to societies, it brings out the absolute worst in humanity. This was not considered at all, but in all honesty, the situations we find in Iraq and Afghanistan have greatly benefited the US.

I doubt there are any published statistics, but I can guarantee that while America has lost a lot of soldiers ‘fighting for the flag’ it has certainly made billions in profit over the course of these invasions. Remember that America is the largest exporter of arms in the world, what better way to advertise your products than a decade long occupation of a nation with such challenging terrain as Afghanistan and the removal of a notorious Tyrant from one of their biggest enemies? That’s before we even think about the oil contracts handed out to western corporations in the oil-fields of Iraq, there’s that famous map of Iraq, divided into five states: Exxon, Shell, Chevron, BP and Total.

So, from the military failings of Vietnam, America has learned that military failings don’t necessarily need to mean general failings. Like all good businesses, they’ve learned that in order to make money they need to stick to what they do best and then exploit the s**t out of it. And credit where credit’s due, they’re pretty good at invading other countries under false pretences.

Hence why I’m so nervous about the rhetoric emerging from the US and the UK on Syria. It’s pretty clear that Syria will be far better off without him in charge, he’s lost his grip. But is any kind of military intervention, be it airstrikes or troops on the ground, really the best way to engineer that? Have we thought this through? On the face of it, Syria is divided into at least three large groupings: Assad Supporters, Rebel Supporters and people that just want the fighting to stop. That third group is actually incomprehensible to Western political leaders and Western media outlets. We’re being force-fed this idea that in Syria, you either support Assad, or you support the rebels. But it’s pretty clear that both sides only have their own interests at heart now. Maybe that wasn’t the case initially, but it certainly is now.

What will happen should either of these two sides emerge victorious? Immediately, the scars of war will inevitably be so severe that the victor will oppress those who side(d) with the defeated. They will be rounded up and punished, that’s pretty much guaranteed and we’ve seen that in Libya and more recently following the military coup in Egypt. At the moment Syria appears to be a horrid place to live in, with continual fighting and shortages of food, water and healthcare. If the West believes that eliminating Assad will resolve these problems and make Syria a better place, they have another thing coming.

They should look to their case studies in Iraq and Afghanistan. I remember watching US troops tearing down Saddam’s statue in Baghdad in my Sixth-Form common room, my teachers watching on in shock, I was 17 then. Over a decade later, how does Iraq look now? Arguably worse. Any intervention in Syria will be catastrophic, because whilst in Iraq the tension was simmering away beneath the surface prior to the invasion, the tension in Syria is smashing your head in with a hammer.

And that is why I find everything that William Hague says on this matter frankly disgusting. ‘Diplomacy hasn’t worked’. That may well be the case, but if it hasn’t worked it’s probably because the West are s**t at diplomacy, not just because the Syrian factions are unwilling. This conflict started well over two years ago, and always looked to be one that could escalate to devastating effect. Instead of acting at the time, we’ve just watched with casual interest, and only recently has our interest been piqued. Has anyone even tried to get Assad and the FSA leaders in a room together?

For what it’s worth, my position on Syria is that there should be no military intervention whatsoever. We live in a world where support is not given out of the goodness of our hearts any longer, any invading force will undoubtedly want something in return. Imagine your house is on fire, and your neighbour has a hosepipe. You ask him for help and he says: ‘Sure, but only if you give me the deeds to your house.’ You’d be incredulous, but that is what Aid amounts to. It’s not free, it comes at a hefty price. A price that the aidee just can’t afford. But a price that the Americans routinely demand.

I think we should be calling for a ceasefire, not to destabilise Assad or the FSA but to stop any further civilian casualties, to get medical aid (with no strings) out there, to get food aid out there, to actually help those who need it. Not only should we call for this ceasefire, we should actually take action. Speak to Assad, speak to the FSA. Get them in a room, knock their heads together. Why are you cutting off your country’s nose? To spite your own face? It sounds incredibly naive, I know. But what other option is there?