Sunday, August 21, 2016

Misunderstood Bashar

Apparently there's a new Syrian government talking point, conveyed via a fascinating set of tweets by Syrian tweeter EHSANI2 that if only they'd been able to move the urban civilian population out of the way, they could have managed a quick victory against the rebels with little of the collateral damage that actually occurred. There are many ways to see the problems with this argument, which has the ring of rehearsing a future legal defence about it, but one is to correct the historical amnesia embedded in it.

During the Boer War, the British came up with a similar idea, that since the Boer insurgents were thriving in the local population, the way to tackle them was to move the population into camps. That became a humanitarian and public relations disaster -- even by the standards of the time; it provided a rationale for a reactionary component to the Boer identity which culminated in the apartheid state, and as an additional bonus, it allowed the Nazis to claim that they weren't the first to come up with the idea of concentrating the war zone population in camps. Other than that, it worked great.

A modern version of it in Syria is no less incredible. The Syrians forced into whatever accommodation the government would have lined up for them would have been internally displaced people, not refugees, and so with no international legal rights. The Syrian government has been seizing the property of their peaceful opponents (and demolishing homes in non-combat areas) so imagine the scale of state theft with massive organized dislocations of people. And of course the Assad government would have made itself the focal point for any international aid that might have come to assist such an effort, with all the moral and financial complications that would entail.

The only consolation one can take from the rising profile of this argument is that some in the government may see that the end is coming and are preparing their excuses.

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