7 years ago, the civil war in Syria began, and has raged on ever since. 5, 6 and 7 year olds all have never been able to go to sleep without the threat of never waking up in the morning. They’ve never been able to go to sleep without the fear that their family might be dead by the morning, or their house might be rubble, or they might be gravely injured.
It’s not fair. It’s not fair and it’s not right. We have, as a world, failed the Syrian children, the Syrian people, and the country of Syria. Depending on which measure you use, up to half a million people, from all sides, have been killed in this lengthly conflict. Over 100,000 of them innocent civilians. People who did not want this war, wanted no part in conflict, just wanted to get on with their lives, but were brutally slaughtered in this atrocity that we call war. 5 million refugees registered by last year. 6 million internally displaced. 1.5 million permanently disabled. We should be ashamed.
I am far from a pacifist, there are situations where war and armed conflict are, regrettably, the best option and our only choice, but such unnecessary conflict forced on an otherwise peaceful population is a failure. A failure not only on the part of the Syrian Government, but also on the part of the international community. In 2016, a photo of a young Syrian boy injured in the back of an ambulance went viral, this photo embodies the agony of the conflict on individuals who have never known any different. What kind of World are we living in where children like Omran have to suffer this? I never had to suffer this at that age, none of us did, so why him, and why the millions of other children living in Syria?
What should we do, you ask? How can we stop such barbaric slaughter without making the situation worse, as so many interventions have done in the past? I propose, Libya, but with a plan. The 2011 campaign to end the Libyan civil war was rightly regarded as a failure, 7 years later, Libya is now crushed under a power struggle between a number of groups claiming to be legitimate, as well as being breeding ground for Daesh in Africa and a centre-point for the North African refugee crisis. However, militarily, the operation was relatively successful. Rather quickly, the Libyan government advances were slowed, and a no-fly zone was established, with very few coalition or civilian casualties. We could also take inspiration from the British intervention in Sierra Leone in 2000, where relative peace was restored and maintained very soon after the entry of foreign soldiers. This kind of strategy, along with a clear plan to establish future peace and democratic governance for decades to come could be just the remedy needed for this heinous situation.
We absolutely should not take lightly, the decision to deploy our armed forces in a foreign theatre, contravening their right to territorial integrity and putting our servicemen and women, as well as civilians, at risk. We cannot intervene every time there is a crisis, but I firmly believe that when innocent men, women and children are being recklessly brutalised, be it through chemical weapons, barrel bombs, or sieges, we should, as a more powerful nation, step in to end this crime against humanity. I am not suggesting a full-scale military invasion such as seen in Iraq in 2003, however, I do believe that we should strive towards the implementation of a no-fly zone, along with specialist on-the-ground presence to protect civilians, provide emergency care, and ensure the full delivery of aid.
David Cameron was right, in 2013, to push for action against Assad and the Syrian regime, and it is deeply disappointing that he was unable to take such action. Since then, the situation has worsened, the Syrian people have suffered more, and we have continued to fail, so now is the time to do what we should’ve done years ago, to do what is right, and to put and end to this suffering.