A Bleeding the West Could Have Stopped – by Wolfgang Bauer – Translated by Charles Hawley
Tens of thousands of Syrians are fleeing from the Assad regime’s bombs. Years ago, the establishment of a no-fly zone could have saved their country.
These tender, young faces — the faces of boys, 16 years old, some only 15, with milky complexions and not even a trace of peach fuzz. I see them in the videos from the Syrian civil war: wearing uniforms, carrying weapons, tenaciously defending their positions, storming ahead or lying with shredded limbs, dead in the dust. Beardless young boys on both sides of the front. They are the face of this war, now in its fifth year, and it is a face that is getting ever younger. The loss rate on both sides is so enormous that a growing number of children and young men are being forced to fill the void. In World War I, they called this kind of bloodletting « bleeding white. »
At a time when tens of thousands of Syrians are heading for Germany and Austria, we are no longer getting much news from inside Syria itself. There are many reasons for this. In recent months, the media was occupied primarily with the euro crisis and Greece, and had little room for any other coverage. Furthermore, it’s no longer possible for journalists to travel to Syria. The danger of abduction in rebel-held territory is too great and the Assad regime issues very few press visas. Jordan has always kept its border to Syria closed to foreign journalists because the military there doesn’t want observers as it provides support to the Syrian opposition. A few months ago, Turkey also prohibited reporters from crossing through its borders into Syria, probably for similar reasons. The only parties in this war that are friendly and receptive to journalists are the Kurds and the Yazidis, which is one reason the German media has reported so much about the Kurds in Syria. But without wanting to minimize their suffering, the Kurdish fight is a bit of a side-show to the larger conflict. In recent decades, the media has never had as little access to a conflict of this importance.
As a result, we’ve been forced to make do with third-party observations. And Syrian suffering only truly reached us with the arrival of large numbers of refugees at Munich’s central station.
This War Is Forcing Open Every Border
Tens of thousands of people have crossed the sea and navigated the Balkan route as they make their way to us. German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière, who is still in office despite the thousands who have drowned in the Mediterranean as a result of his bad decisions, has now closed Germany’s borders. He says Germany is overwhelmed and that not everyone can come to the country. Instead we need to address the root cause of the mass flight, he says. At the same time, the United Nations has said that a million more Syrians will likely leave their country by the end of the year if the murder doesn’t stop. The explosive force of this war is too great for Germany and Europe to be able to seal themselves off. This is a war that bursts all boundaries.
The hemorrhaging in Syria has many causes that are not the fault of Europe or the United States. Still, Europe and the US could have stopped the bleeding. They could have stopped it when the Assad regime first deployed helicopters to fire randomly into the cities and towns. They could have stopped it when Assad began to deploy fighter jets against the civilian population. The West could have stopped the bleeding when the regime began deploying Scud missiles, poison gas and barrel bombs. When the German interior minister speaks of closing the borders and addressing the root causes of the flight, does he know what he is talking about?
He is talking about something that the German government under Merkel has spent years strictly rejecting. The only way to keep Syrians in Syria and to relieve Munich from the overwhelming burden the war has thrust upon it is to establish a no-fly zone.
What are Syrians fleeing from? Very few are fleeing as a result of the battles, as confusing as they may be. Most are fleeing from the air strikes, the cause of which isn’t confusing at all: Most Syrians are fleeing from the Assad regime’s fleets of bombers.
The people in the half of Syria that is no longer under Assad’s control have long been calling for a no-fly zone. But the West always knew better. The West, along with two German foreign ministers, Guido Westerwelle and Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said: A no-fly zone will just make things worse. We can’t shoot down Assad’s fighter jets because doing so would cause the conflict to spread. It was one of the worst mistakes ever made in German foreign policy.
The Syrian civil war did spread — but precisely because the West didn’t establish a no-fly zone. Assad’s bombs shattered the order in the Middle East. They shattered the structures in the villages and cities of his country. They caused the very people to flee who had been responsible for providing structure to everyday life there and for shaping the way people thought: the elderly, the educated and the traditional village leaders. Everyone who could afford to, left. The only people who stayed were those who were too poor to flee and were grateful for any support they got, regardless from which side it came from. They even embraced the devil when he offered them protection.
Assad’s bombs thus helped give birth to the Islamic State. Bomb after bomb, corpse after corpse, horror after horror, Assad’s air force tilled the soil for the radicals. Each bomb caused more Syrians to sign on to lunatic ideologies that value death over life.
Had a no-fly zone had been established three years ago, Syria would have been spared the IS madness in its current, powerful form. It would have saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children. It would have saved irreplaceable cultures. It also would have spared Europe the largest influx of refugees seen since World War II. Now, the consequences of the Merkel government’s foreign policy failures are so widespread that even the mayors of German villages are being forced to reckon with them.
The decision by Germany and the West not to create a no-fly zone in Syria has proven to be as disastrous as the US decision in 2003 to attack Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. But that all those leaders responsible for the tragic error are still in office. Those leaders whose strategies led to the biggest disaster since World War II continue to develop strategy for the Middle East today.
A Political Solution Is Hundreds of Thousands of Deaths Away
Of course Thomas de Maizière doesn’t mean it seriously when he talks about addressing the root causes of the mass exodus. He isn’t thinking about military measures. Surely he has a political solution in mind. But nobody in Syria is interested in a political solution. Syria is still many hundreds of thousands of deaths away from a political solution.
In contrast to the West, this is something that Russian President Vladimir Putin has clearly recognized. He is now intervening — no longer clandestinely, but relatively openly — in order to prop up Assad’s wobbling regime. It has been reported that he is now sending thousands of troops to the civil war-torn country. He is building airports and equipping Assad with new destructive technologies. Putin is supplying the aid because Assad has been having a tough time of it in recent months. An alliance made up of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar has been supplying new armor-piercing weapons to moderate rebels in western Syria. Both sides are so depleted at this point that a single weapons system is enough to change the map. Within a matter of weeks, rebels made gains on a front that had been frozen for years. They took several cities and drove out Assad’s troops. Reports and also videos indicate that Assad lost hundreds of tanks and pieces of heavy equipment. He tried to regain the upper hand by deploying his elite troops — but failed.
The Alawi population, the regime’s backbone, is seething, and there have even been some protests. With a growing number of Alawis doubting Assad’s ability to lead them out of this trap, he will not be able to afford many more defeats. That is why Putin is intervening now. It is unlikely that Russian will have much effect on the front, but they will surely improve the Syrian army’s morale. The war, in other words, is likely to continue for some time to come.
And the people will continue to flee. In Germany, the refugee homes will overflow — and sometimes they will be the target of arson attacks. Foreign-policy makers in Germany will continue to charitably sent tents to bombed-out Syrians in Lebanon as they wash their hands in innocence. Meanwhile, Assad’s bombers will continue the carnage. In September alone, over 100 barrel bombs were dropped on Aleppo.
date : 18/09/2015