See a previous essay “Assad Regime: Arguments Against Non-intervention” (https://partnershipblog.wordpress.com/2015/11/30/assad-regime-arguments-against-non-intervention/) for reasons why the repellent case for not intervening in Syria against the Assad Regime if far weaker than it appears.
Seeing the advantages to people in the West in intervening against the Assad Regime in Syria, is a different issue. It requires taking a long view, and acknowledging the crumbling foundations of our own democracy. Failures in Iraq and Libya of intervention that was bad or at best negligent, does not imply that good intervention is not important or not possible. The insult that insanity being the belief that doing the same thing and expecting different results, does not actually apply.
Over the last forty years western democratic governments have become increasingly unable to control their own national economies. Due to globalization of the manufacture and trade in goods, and the accompanying removal of controls that limited the power of international financial markets. This is effectively a one way process, as the reintroduction of barriers and controls is punished by the existing “free” system, while the opposite is not true. However the freeing up of economic systems, has created greater wealth inequalities, and higher debt levels of all types (personal, business, government). This inevitably leads to crises of demand, and deep economic depressions.
Governments that have little economic control, and still less in times of crisis, are extremely limited in their scope of action in representing the will of their voters. This accounts for the decline of interest in mainstream politics in western democracies, as it becomes unimportant who you vote for, as economic power (and by implication other types of power) has moved away from governments.
At the same time the economic power of authoritarian countries has grown. The so called “BRICS” nations are China, India, Russia, Brazil and South Africa. China and Russia are dictatorships, in which effective opposition is suppressed. Indian democracy is effectively undermined by high level corruption, political violence, sectarianism and a weak judicial system. Brazil and South Africa are pseudo democracies. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the percentage of world GDP of the BRICS has increased from 15% to over 30%, and is continuing to grow. They have substantial and growing influence in Africa, South America and the Middle East (Iran, Iraq, Syria).
The long term climate is one of resource stress and climate change. Both trends that favour an authoritarian response, by avoiding a united solution and dumping the problem on others. Elites will be motivated to hoard even more resources, and invest in foreign neo-colonial regimes they can control.
This leads to the unintuitive conclusion that a mass and highly motivated “democracy movement” is needed in western democracies. Instead of this we mainly have “progressives” with tunnel vision, and the pious remnants of the hard left. The peoples of the Middle East have stood up with empty hands to militarized “security” machines that torture and murder without restraint. The response in the West has been bigotry, ignorance and indifference, across the mainstream and “progressive alternative” political spectrum. It has been stunningly shameful. Uniquely a betrayal of values across the divides.
An effective western “democracy movement” needs either to emerge in a climate of the expansion of democracy, or start with a tangible injustice to struggle against. The Assad regime is nothing but a criminal clique that has stolen from and ruled over a nation with the threat of systematic torture. This has been going on for 45+ years. An uprising demanding representative government has become an armed resistance due to the violent response of the regime. The betrayal of this resistance, has over the last 4+ years produced the confusion we now complacently debate.
Ordinary Syrians need a partnership with genuine progressives who can pressure their governments to supply the assistance that is needed. Force is clearly needed, because the Assad clique will not lose their control over the Syrian government, unless the moderate opposition is strong. Equally diplomacy is needed to convince the authoritarian governments who are supporting the sectarian militias and the extreme jihadists (nominally opposed to each other) that this is against their long term interests. Equally again the protection of civilians, conflict resolution and aid for reconstruction is needed to allow Syrians to get on with the rebuilding of their country.
This is an extremely difficult but also equally valuable mission. We have a lot to learn from their success, from new emerging ideas for social revival, refreshed by courage and endurance. A western “democracy movement” will need similar but different qualities of determination, compromise and imagination. The question is when?