Turkey hints at ‘evidence’ that Israel is destabilizing the Brotherhood, the U.S. fleet is planning a fishing trip to the Med, NSA agents are misusing company resources to spy on their ‘love interests’ and the WikiLeaks Party is about to oust its leader, Julian Assange, if he continues to hide in Ecuador’s London embassy instead of attending party meetings in Australia. But I don’t want such trivialities to detract from this week’s continuing tragedy – the Syrian civil war.
What started in Tunisia towards the end of December 2010, quickly spread to other parts of North Africa and the Middle East. For the most part, the Arab Spring dealt swiftly with the ruling classes and managed to establish transitional governments with minimal casualties.
By the time it was Libya’s turn to bid farewell to Colonel Gaddafi, the world was already glued to their television screens in anticipation of a Western intervention. Shortly thereafter, the United States, France and Britain pounded the country with air strikes and 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles to force leader Moamar Gaddafi from power.
U.S. president, Barack Obama, said: “Make no mistake. Today we are part of a broad coalition. We are answering the calls of a threatened people.” Even our own Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kevin Rudd, got in on the action by saying that the “Australian Government fully supports this military action against the Libyan regime because it’s necessary to do whatever is possible to protect the Libyan people.” But was the West altruistic in its military intervention in order to protect a “threatened people?”
Less than a month after the initial reports of unrest and barely 3,000 casualties into the conflict, neither the U.N. Security Council or NATO had any issues supporting military intervention in Libya.
Two and a half years on, it’s estimated that over 100,000 Syrians have died since the start of the civil war. Even the U.N. went on record by quoting 100,000 as a good starting point for the total number of casualties. But these are just numbers on paper, right? Numbers from somewhere in the Middle-East and far removed from our daily dose of tea, football and morning croissants. Life doesn’t stop, at least not for us.
In comparison, the total number of casualties during the Libyan conflict is estimated to be around 25,000 – a fraction of what has already been confirmed in Syria. Are the Syrian people threatened by any less an evil? Are they not calling for help? We intervened in Libya because we were answering the “calls of the people” and because it was morally the correct thing to do! Right?
In his first public comments since Wednesday’s alleged gas attack in Damascus, Obama called the incident a “big event of grave concern” and one that demanded U.S. attention, but said he was in no rush to get war-weary Americans “mired” in another Middle East conflict.
Hang on a second, did Obama just say he’s in “no rush to get war-weary Americans” involved in another war, or is he merely stating that the U.S. would rather not get sucked into a conflict involving a net oil importer? After all, Syria does have an oil industry, of sorts, which accounts for over 40% of its export earnings. Clearly though, it’s peanuts compared to Libya, which happily sits on the largest proven oil reserves in all of Africa.
So, Libya had Gaddafi and loads of oil. Iraq had Sadam, “WMDs”, al Qaeda and plenty of oil. Afghanistan had the Taliban, al Qaeda and Osama, as well as — wait for it — huge amounts of lithium, copper, gold, coal, iron ore and other rare earth mineral that would make any geologist pee their pants with excitement. Oh, and oil.
Just take a look at a recent United States Geological Survey (USGS) report on Afghanistan to comprehend the full scale of the mineral reserves in Helmand province. Experts say that Afghanistan’s resources could make it the richest mining region on earth. Do you believe the Soviets were in Afghanistan for so many years because they enjoyed playing a cat and mouse game with CIA-trained insurgents?
And so, it’s down to the superpowers to intervene or flex their muscles. While the United States is repositioning its naval forces in the Mediterranean as it considers a possible military response to recent developments in Syria, at least two other nations are joining in preparation for a naval offensive against the Middle Eastern nation.
Moving a few battle ships closer to the Syrian coastline is hardly a deterrent since Obama’s in no rush to get involved. As of May 2013, Russia has sent a dozen or more warships to patrol waters near its naval facility in the Syrian port town of Tartus. Many see this as an aggressive stance meant partly to warn the West and Israel not to intervene in Syria’s bloody civil war.
No, Syria doesn’t have significant mineral deposits and its oil reserves barely meet domestic demand, but they do have a roaring sheep, cheese and tomato sector. As delicious as it all sounds, these aren’t resources that most mineral-hungry and gas-guzzling nations can assimilate into their own revenue streams.
What I would like to know is when the international community will say “enough is enough” and step in on humanitarian grounds alone. Even the Bosnian conflict received a speedier intervention, in part due to its proximity to Europe. And while the West lamented, condemned and deplored the full extent of the Balkan genocide on its doorstep, one million Rwandans had perished before the U.N. issued a clear mandate to supply its peacekeepers with loaded weapons.
Is one million that magic number? Does it take one million deaths before the international community gets involved in a country with limited natural resources? I’ll let you do the math.