A Plea For Peace

President Assad is massacring his own people and Koffi Annan of the UN is in talks with him. Now I’m all in favour of “jaw jaw rather than war war” a quote from Winston Churchill, but this is not an either, or situation. I hope and believe Koffi Annan is sincerely trying to make things better for the people of Syria, but his attempt looks misguided and likely to fail.

There are a number of things to think about here; the nature of President Assad, recent and not so recent history, the constitution and limitations of the UN and when all these things have been considered I think the only conclusion is that a new approach is needed.

Lets look at President Assad himself and the lessons he might have learned from history, but hasn’t! Recent history suggests the world is not too fond of totalitarian dictators. Saddam Hussein has gone, Mubarak has gone and Gaddafi has gone. They went in different ways, but none of them in a way they would have appreciated. Looking at somewhat earlier history and admittedly from another culture the British restored their monarchy and retained it once the head of state made concessions to democracy.

The problem is the overweening desire for power. Assad is married to a lady with British citizenship, he could have lain down power and would almost certainly have found the right of abode in Britain or elsewhere and could doubtless have taken his family and enormous wealth with him. He could have lived a life most people can only dream of. Nonetheless, voluntary or not, exile does have its drawbacks, but such a life is certainly better than committing simple murder, let alone genocide against one’s own people.

Had he acted sooner and led his country to democracy, he might actually have earned the love of his people and retained his position as head of state, albeit without totalitarian power, but his desire to rule absolutely has undone him. His options for living beyond the borders of Syria are somewhat lessened now that he is a war criminal. He may have certain legal and human rights, but a jail sentence won’t be on his agenda and should be the minimum punishment he would receive in any right thinking democracy.

The UN is part of the problem sadly, not part of the solution. The world’s major powers seem to have a tendency to ignore UN resolutions when it suits them and in this case the attack on Homs was precipitated by the Russian and Chinese vetoes which gave Assad something of a green light to use the weapons, he bought certainly from one of those countries if not from both, on innocent men women and children. Men women and children he brands terrorists because it’s politically expedient so to do, but men women and children who actually only seek the right of self determination, a measure of freedom and a brighter, future.

The UN can do much good in the event of natural disasters but it cannot ever be a substantial, effective force for peace, because it is constitutionally flawed and powerless to boot. I doubt anyone in the developed world has the stomach to help the Syrian people at this moment. Just as charities suffer from compassion fatigue when people are asked too often to support this cause, that cause and every other cause, in the same way there is a reluctance to become involved in other people’s struggles after too many recent conflicts from Bosnia, to Iraq and Afghanistan.

By talking to Assad the UN is making it even easier for everyone else to turn a blind eye to the plight of the ordinary people of Syria. Even if anyone was thinking of lending a helping hand they’ll wait to see what happens while there is any kind of negotiation. Despite the unavoidable, inescapably obvious Hitleresque insincerity of Assad.

The UN has proved itself to be a club of vested self interest. Well, that’s politics, even democracy is imperfect. The UN could be improved by extending the security council far further with a view to making all members equal eventually and on the way moving away from vetoes towards majority decisions, ultimately, this and a standing force might give the UN some teeth although it’s not the new approach I’m advocating.

Events from history, from ancient times to the Arab Spring demonstrate that when enough people cry enough, things change. Morally and in practice the people are sovereign. There’s a case to be made for the idea that a people get the government they deserve – democratic or not. However, these things are not black and white. Overthrowing a totalitarian and violent regime requires courage, sacrifice and numbers.

In Egypt troops declined to fire on their own people recently. Soldiers are people too. When the people speak and act as one no mountain is immovable. It’s interesting that a soldier who commits an atrocity can no longer rely on the defence that he was acting on orders, and yet all countries and all armies expect blind obedience from their own troops.

The new approach then must be to spread pacifism to a point where ultimately, at some future time war is anathema to all people, where to be a soldier, fighter pilot or warrior in any field is to be an outcast. When an overwhelming majority of people in ANY country reject violence and demand their rights dictators must fall. We must eventually make that EVERY country, and when the vast sums spent on weapons are spent on putting solar panels in deserts and creating other forms of renewable energy, on housing, agriculture, education and health then so many of the world’s other pressures will be reduced too, hopefully, even disappear. Pressures of migration, of economic growth and stability, even of intolerance between races, religions and cultures.

Ghandi knew it and we have only to recognise it and take action. I have an idea; a big expensive idea for an entirely new approach to move the world towards a peaceful future, no matter where the UN turns. It needs big money to get it off the ground but somewhat less than a squad of football players in one of the major leagues for example.

So please ‘Like’ this on the internet and pass it around, Twitter it +1 it, Facebook, blog, boing and ping it. I’ll share the plan with anyone who has substantial resources to make it happen. Much as I would like personally to put it into action myself they can even take it over, put their name to it, if they’re going to put it into effect, otherwise, give me the backing and I’ll put my heart and soul into it.

Please make this article, comment, whatever you want to call it go viral until someone takes up the challenge. Pass it on, post it on blogs and websites far and wide, put it in forums, ezines and anywhere on-line you can think of. Thank you.

Malcolm Snook

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