LibLink: Paddy Ashdown – Syria shows the lessons of Libya still unlearnt

Paddy Ashdown writes in the Times today about Syria. He was, of course, the international community’s High Representative in Bosnia, so is ideally placed to comment on western diplomacy in the face of tyranny.

Megaphone diplomacy has failed. The West must let Turkey lead a relief operation.

The slaughter of the innocents in Syria is, of course, horrific, barbaric, shocking, terrifying medieval, bestial — choose your own adjective; they’ve all been used — some many times over. In our attempts to camouflage impotence we are now devaluing hyperbole.

But it is not sufficient. With the West’s moral force in tatters after the blunders of Iraq and Afghanistan and military budgets so shrunk that we can no longer enforce our global morality at the point of a bayonet, we have to learn to be not just concerned, but canny too if we are to get our way.

I thought we had learnt that lesson in Libya. But Syria suggests that we have not.

He continues:

…we in the West should have learnt from Libya that to get things done means creating coalitions beyond the cosy circle of the Atlantic club.

Instead, we seem, sadly and stupidly, to have reverted to type in Syria. Instead of quietly standing back and letting the Arabs and the regional powers lead the call for action, Western leaders, from Hillary Clinton to the newly arrived President Hollande, just could not resist donning the armour of moral outrage and leading the charge.

Instead of making it harder for Russia to say “no”, they have made it easier — and overlooked the central role that Turkey could have played as a regional leader in putting together a coalition for action that the West could have found it easy to back and the Russians much more difficult to oppose.

He concludes:

A single mighty event that can bring a sudden end to tyranny, as in Bosnia, is now beyond us in Syria. But starting a process driven by the region, not the West, that will take us there over time is not.

The truth is that nowadays Western good intentions and deep concern are not sufficient. We have to learn to be canny too. And we haven’t been. The cowering innocents in Houla have been left to pay the price for a UN deadlock that, played differently, arguably might not have had to happen.

You can read the full text  at the Times website [£]

 

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice.

Read more by or more about , or .
This entry was posted in LibLink.
Advert

10 Comments

  • ……………………………..West could have found it easy to back and the Russians much more difficult to oppose………………………………..

    The Russians feel ‘conned’ over Libya. The West said one thing and then stretched and stretched the wording far, far beyond its original meaning.
    France, in contradiction to the original understanding supplied heavy arms to the rebels, the UK sent ‘SAS advisors’, the original wording regarding foreign troops was stretched to mean ‘occupying troops’, etc.

    It’s no wonder theRussians don’t trust us over Syria.

  • “It’s no wonder theRussians don’t trust us over Syria.”

    Oh, poor Russians. They don’t “trust us”? What difference would it make if they “trusted” us or not?

    The Russians have large amounts of blood on their hands now and are just brazening it out, trying to protect their own national strategic interests, without the slightest thought of what might befall the population of Syria.

    Whether they “trusted us” or not would not have made the slightest bit of difference to the situation whatsoever.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 1st Jun '12 - 3:20pm

    Jason

    I would recommend Luke Harding’s excellent book on the current Russian government to you. It includes one memorable quote about reading the novels of Mario Puzo to understand how the Russian government works. The Russians will change their stance on Syria once they consider that it is to their material advantage to do so – and lets just say that Syria provides a nice little earner for their arms sales and unrest in the Middle East does quite a lot to keep the oil price up.

    On the UN surely it is about time that we changed from the current system of Security Council vetoes, so that individual large countries cannot veto actions – wouldn’t it be better to require a 75% vote of all members or something similar. We need to remember that the UN has a long list of cases where it has failed to take effective action to stop abuses of Charters e.g. Rwanda, Darfur and now Southern Sudan, Saddam when he used WMDs, Bosnia, Kosovo etc.etc. – something needs to change to make it work.

  • Ed Shepherd 1st Jun '12 - 4:55pm

    I think it is because of what happened in Libya (and Iraq) that the Syrian regime are fighting in such a brutal uncompromising way. In Libya, NATO ended up flying air support for one side in a civil war. Gadaffi was brutally killed. He must have wondered why he ever bothered to give up his WMD or to try rapprochement with the west. Perhaps he deserved such an ending but it understandable why President Assad is willing to use such horrendous tactics in order to avoid the same fate befalling him and his family. The same applies in Iraq. Saddam was hung by a baying mob. It’s no wonder the Syrian president will now fight to the death to protect himself from the same fate. Any dictator now knows that he must fight a vicious war to the death and that the best defence against such an ending is for him to use every means at his disposal.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 1st Jun '12 - 10:26pm

    “I think it is because of what happened in Libya (and Iraq) that the Syrian regime are fighting in such a brutal uncompromising way”

    Might I suggest that you go and look up the Hama maasacre before you make such fatuous comments in the future. Or at least have the decency to listen to what the Syrian opposition are saying.

  • Paul Reynolds 2nd Jun '12 - 5:18am

    I agree with the thrust of this article. I would like to emphasise that Syria is the only Arab nation in revolt that is not ‘Western’ client state (accepting that Libya was not, until recently). Syria in fact still has a Soviet-instigated security state, now outwith the control of the son of the Soviet-era President – a particularly nasty regime in a region of nasty regimes.
    Under such circumstances, avoiding military conflict with Russia, one can expect Western arming of rebels through proxies. This is unlikely to topple the regime, so ceteris paribus the conflict will drag on for years.

    But why are the Russians so furiously adamant, and why have they launched such a vehement global propaganda counter-offensive ? It is because their small Mediterranean base there is a symbolic component of Russian ‘resurgence’ under newly re-elected Putin. It’s largely a macho thing, and the expansion of Ruusia’s only real foreign base is key to Putin’s ‘strong Russia’ narrative at home. But the base itself, even when expanded, is of limited military value. So let them have their base, and even offer guarantees, in exchange for cooperation over an orderly and life-savung transition to democracy and stability-orientated constitutional change.

  • RC1st Jun ’12 – 2:46pm…………………Oh, poor Russians. They don’t “trust us”? What difference would it make if they “trusted” us or not?..The Russians have large amounts of blood on their hands now and are just brazening it out, trying to protect their own national strategic interests, without the slightest thought of what might befall the population of Syria. ….Whether they “trusted us” or not would not have made the slightest bit of difference to the situation whatsoever,,,,,,,,,,

    The difference is that a ‘concensus is needed to deal with the situation. Russia and China were ‘coaxed’ into agreeing to intervention in Libya. Had the West not turned the situation into a blatant ‘regime change’ exercise by breaking (sorry bending) just about every part of the UN remit a concensus on Syria might have happened before now,

    Our actions in Libya have resulted in a fragmented politically unstable ‘country’, a rudderless National Transitional Council, feuding between heavily armed rival militias, continuing human rights abuses, allegations of fraud, and a growing east-west divide.

    As far as “trying to protect their own national strategic interests” goes, our actions over Bahrain hardly gives us grounds for satisfaction….: among all the Gulf states, Bahrainis have pushed hardest for democratic reform – and been the most repressed. Fearing for its survival, the Sunni monarchy led by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa invited Saudi Arabia to send troops to help suppress its mostly Shia Muslim opponents in March last year. The intervention, tacitly backed by the US/UK, presaged severe, ongoing human rights abuses (‘Guardian’)

    ‘glasshouses and stones’

  • perhaps Qualified Majority Voting should be treid in the UN.

  • Ed Shepherd 3rd Jun '12 - 10:06am

    I repeat: I have no doubt that the Syrian regime sees itself in a fight to the death. I have no doubt that they have seen that in Iraq and in Libya the West did not allow the despots in question some kind of way out into exile. They see this as a fight that they must win or face grotesque execution in the chaos of a crumbling regime. Sickening as it may be to see this kind of despot go unpunished into safe exile (such as Idi Amin did) that may often be a better option than letting these despots see themselves engaged in a struggle to a bunker-bound death.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • User Avatartheakes 16th Dec - 10:01am
    Better baselines in Salford and Barnsley but of course no UKIP, Green or others so we pick up the whole third force protest vote. Newcastle...
  • User AvatarRichard Underhill 16th Dec - 9:34am
    Tony Greaves 15th Dec '17 - 8:15pm Remember the issue about dangerous dogs being brought from Latvia, into Northern Ireland and onwards to Liverpool? It...
  • User AvatarRichard Underhill 16th Dec - 9:19am
    "the Empress has no clothes" Not even trademark shoes? Wait for the cartoonists to catch up, bearing in mind that Arlene Foster, DUP has agreed.
  • User AvatarAndrew McCaig 16th Dec - 9:13am
    Meanwhile we have Ree-Smogg making in clear that a transitional deal with full Single Market membership is unacceptable to him. Yet that is the only...
  • User AvatarAndrew McCaig 16th Dec - 9:09am
    LJP, Actually Norway is in the Single Market but not in the Customs Union. As I understand it there are customs checks and some restrictions...
  • User AvatarKatharine Pindar 16th Dec - 9:03am
    Those seem important points about proposed land taxation, Michael, with a really challenging idea about the effect on owners of rented property. Just one small...