The Ignored War – The need for collective security enforcement

By Oliver Krumme.

War in the immediate neighbourhood

A violent conflict with catastrophic humanitarian consequences in going on in the immediate vicinity of NATO and the western security alliance is standing aside and watching. While Syrian President Assad goes on brutally crushing the opposition and even announcing to use chemical weapons, the international community keeps articulating their disgrace and communicating their “deepest concerns” about the current development of the civil war.


However, anything else aside from words of deepest concern or sympathy cannot be expected, at least not at the present time. So far, all action taken by the international community have proven to be inefficient, unhelpful and above all useless in terms of imposing ceasefires or even peace negotiations. Even the Turkish request for Patriot missiles of the past few weeks and their deployment announcement alongside the Turkish-Syrian border before the end of the year is just a mere placebo effect to what NATO should be doing in the view of the on-going atrocities in Syria.


Conspicuous reluctance

With the civil war dragging on, and the humanitarian situation becoming more and more unbearable for the Syrian population, the need for an intensive foreign military intervention is evidently increasing. However, NATO shows a conspicuous reluctance to consider a military operation against the Assad regime. Lacking consensus inside the alliance and unclear resource deployment among its member states lead to a non-intervention in a region that was declared as a designated area of strategic interest and importance for the alliance and especially for the western community – especially since the beginning of the so called “Arab Spring”.


This reluctance is caused on one hand by the lacking support in the international community – especially with the position of China and Russia to block any motion – and the tedious economic crisis. From single actors’ perspective, the US has in general marginalized its Middle East Policy in the past four years, and regarding the Obama Administration’s current strategy for the next four years, it doesn’t predict any major changes.


The same rule applies to the European actors (for obvious reasons); none of them – neither on the national, nor on the common EU level – does in fact come up with a sustainable and helpful solution for the conflict that might lead to a rapid conflict solution. Even the Patriot Missile deployment is being widely discussed as an “unpredictable” option that might cause more uncertainty rather than actual help.


There is one obvious question arising from this dilemma: why does no one launch strong and useful actions against the Assad regime?


The collective fear to fail

Obviously, both NATO and single countries are unable to persuasively convince all members of the UN Security Council – above all the last remaining supporters China and Russia – to impose strong sanctions against Assad. From the UN’s side, as long as two or even a single permanent member of the UN Security Council vetoes any resolution that imposes more than just economic sanctions, the UN and therefore the entire international community is doomed to fail and to remain inactive.

However, even if you disregard the blocking position of China and Russia, the remaining community shows no visible willingness to take any action. Not just because of the lack of the necessary formal requirements, but above all because of self-limiting hesitation and the simple fear to fail.


Taking a look at previous international actions in other crisis regions (e.g. in Libya or Afghanistan), the international community is suffering from overall disappointment due to the obvious deficits in peace-keeping and post-conflict nation-building efforts. The consequences are catastrophic in the long-run: negative examples in the past have a massively discouraging effect and completely annihilate the determination to impose future security enforcing actions. This reluctance though is a combination of deteriorated self-confidence, lacking overall international support, and the uncertainty of the consequences of a military operation in Syria – also in terms of possible impacts for the entire Middle East.


Formalities over necessities

The western community, being aware that neither China nor Russia will agree on a common resolution of military action in Syria, is paralysed and trapped in non-action, for one simple but decisive reason: As long as there is no UN mandate based on a commonly agreed resolution for action in Syria, there will be no collective action whatsoever. Tragically, the entire international community is hindering itself due to minor formalities. The flaws are within the UN system itself, a notorious hunt for collective consensus and agreements will predictably not lead to efficient and sustainable conflict resolution, not even when quick responses are imperative.


It sounds like a bad joke that the simple matter of formalities are preventing necessary actions in a stage where it becomes evident that diplomacy or economic sanctions alone do no longer lead to conflict resolution. However, there is no doubt that any further delay for action will increase the suffering of the civilian population in Syria and the danger of a spread of hostilities to neighbouring countries, such as Turkey. In the long-run, the crisis will not be limited within the Syrian borders and it is only a matter of time until the civil war will no longer be a Syrian war. With Turkey demanding Patriot Missiles from the alliance (with the US, the Netherlands, and Germany being the only NATO members able to provide Patriots), an immediate threat for a NATO member and the alliance as a whole has already been identified and an imminent threat for peace and stability is a sufficient mandate for military counter measures – in purely military terms.



It is an unpopular suggestion, but necessary decisions are not popular by default. Even though there is no apparent collective support for military action in the UN Security Council, the need for intervention is given, specifically for humanitarian reasons. Back in 1999, NATO did not have a UN mandate for military action in Kosovo in the first place, but the obvious humanitarian disaster made in inevitable to launch air strikes, the necessary mandate was acquired ex post. Syria is not a different case. The constant and almost impelled feeling for perpetuation of so called “collective international laws” will only increase the humanitarian catastrophe, especially if the international community goes on unintentionally ignoring the fact that there is a war going on in a globally crucial region with disastrous consequences for western and global security.


The only recommendation that can be given here is a demand for an immediate military operation in Syria and the rapid deployment of peace enforcing troops in the region. Any further delay will lead to a destabilization of the Middle East and expand to a sever security menace for the western alliance. Action has to be taken at once, disregarding the UN regime or opposing positions by single actors. Self-imposed reluctance has to be overcome, for collective sake. (This article was originally published on The author is an independent blogger and political analyst with a main focus on security and defence, EU affairs, and German foreign policy.


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