Permanent Stagnation: The United Nations Security Council and Syria

The failure of the United Nations (UN) Security Council (UNSC) to enact any meaningful response to the conflict in Syria is eroding not only life in Syria but the very foundation of international order. This report uses the Arab Spring conflicts which the conflict in Syria is a part of to talk about larger systemic problems in the UN framework. This report argues the responsibility to protect (R2P) needs to be utilized in Syria because it could end the violence and further entrench R2P as customary law. This report also argues that the permanency of the United States (US), the United Kingdom (UK), France, Russia and China in the UNSC, known as the P5, represents a lofty roadblock to fully realizing the R2P. As well, the P5 are halting the progression of human rights, state sovereignty, and a ceasing of bloodshed in Syria. Authoritative regimes are on the rise, and as soon as 2017 the international community could see three out of the five permanent seats of the UNSC governed by such regimes. The UNSC is in peril and needs broad reform if the UN desires to continue its hegemony in diplomacy. However, this report concludes the international community will not utilize the prescribed solutions because it would kill any legitimacy in the UNSC, albeit a decidedly false legitimacy.

R2P has its development in previous conflicts, but the Arab Spring is the thematic set of conflicts used to examine the use of R2P. Samuel Helfont and Tally Helfont (2012) argue the Arab Spring came about because “Arab societies increasingly aware of the many plaguing economic and political deficiencies in their countries” (p. 83). Conflict in Libya, Bahrain, Egypt and Yemen all sprang up relative to each other in and around 2011. These conflicts and the population’s fight for freedom are what we see in the news at home, but there are other factors at play. In this toxic brew of regional fighting the conflict in Syria started as a peaceful protest for reform in 2011 but quickly turned bloody with a fight for regime change. Jan Egeland (2015) cites that “an estimated 12.2 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. . . and more than four million people have fled to neighboring countries” (p. 297). Thomas Weiss (2014) cites “upwards of 130,000 dead” because of the ongoing fighting in Syria (p. 13). What has compounded these numbers are the massive influx of terrorist organizations like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Daesh), using the conflict in Syria for a greater fight for the Arab region (Simon, Yacoubian, Cebeci, Khoury, 2013, p. 12).

R2P formally recognized at the 2005 UN World Summit, is a divisive yet powerful doctrine (Zifcak, 2015, p. 68). Arguably, R2P is a developing norm and not fully embedded or accepted by the international community (Morris, 2013, p. 1267). The R2P can be broken down into three fundamental pillars. First, the responsibility of individual states to secure their populations. Second, international recognition and support of the internal conflict through diplomatic and humanitarian services. The third pillar enables collective response under the UN Charter authorized through the UNSC to intervene in a failed-state (Nuruzzaman, 2013, p. 61). The third pillar of thought remains the most controversial. The UNSC remains the authority on using R2P, and with its power of referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC), it remains a wedge for resolution and reconciliation of any conflict (Aloisi, 2013, pp. 150-151). Flaws in operation regarding the ICC are not left out of the discussion because reconciliation and justice are also key to outright resolution.

Authoritative regimes are a thematic constant throughout this report. Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy and one of the least free states in the Arab World and props up nondemocratic regimes in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) (Helfont, 2012, pp. 83-84). The GCC’s political and military alliances are a direct answer to the Arab Spring. Iran is firmly authoritative but built around theocracy. The administration in Turkey has just thwarted an attempted coup leading to draconian like measures whose consequences have not fully matured (Bodkin, Millward, Ensor, Rothwell, 2016). Russia and China as well are controlled by authoritative regimes. What is most frightening is the potential for an authoritative government with the upcoming 2017 presidency of Donald Trump in the US. Syria, the case-study for this report, as well is fighting to thwart the continued regime of Bashar al-Assad which is decidedly authoritative. This begs the question of are we seeing a convergence of tyranny or a potential spark towards an increase in the degree of warfare, both qualitative and quantitative?

The Arab Spring

The numerous conflicts in the Arab Spring make it impossible to cover them all in the context of Syria. However, maintaining focus on the UNSC and R2P and using the uprisings in Libya and Syria, with mention of the US war in Iraq, will explain why the Arab Spring is critically important to the international community.

The Bush Doctrine: Following the terrorist attacks on the US know as 9/11, terrorism took on an evolved form, or at least as finally seen for the danger it honestly presents to the world. The US response was swift and divisive in Afghanistan and surprisingly in Iraq. Al-Qaeda’s attack on the US and the US’s pre-emptive strategy of prolonged war against terrorism; regardless of national borders as a response to that attack arguably planted the seeds of modern terrorism, a willful ignorance of human rights, and disrespect for state sovereignty (Gray, 2006, p. 562). As well, the US response circumventing the UNSC in Afghanistan and Iraq set a tone that lesser influential nations than the US can use as an example (Gray, 2006, p. 563).  At the very minimum, it sets a double-standard that the US is not beholden to its obligations under the UN.

Forever lost to reality are the legalities and reasoning for the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. However, during this time the US policy towards Syria was a policy of disregard. As Joshua Landis (2010) says, “the reasoning in Washington was that the United States need not cooperate with Syria and would pay no price for it” (p. 65). This was about border disputes between Israel and Syria but highlights a clear stance against Syria. What is more important to Syria regarding the Bush doctrine was the unraveling of the US-Iraq war. In summarizing Michael Scharf (2016), with the defeat of the Baathist party in Iraq, the former Baathist-dominated Iraqi army morphed into al-Qaeda in Iraq which would become Daesh in due time (p. 20). When the US withdrew forces under the Obama administration, the weak state of Iraq fell into sectarian warfare at the hands of Daesh. It did not take long for the violence to spill over into Syria which would become a natural home for terrorism by 2013 instead of its traditional role as a conduit for Lebanon-bound terrorists (Simon et al., 2013, p. 12).

Important to note regarding the spillover of violence into Syria is that the US held a shaky legitimacy in fighting Daesh in Iraq because the government requested assistance, this is not the case regarding Syria (Scharf, 2016, p. 22). As well, international interest in Iraq is not a pointed as it is in Syria. After the use of R2P in Libya, the UNSC cannot come to terms with its use in Syria, namely at the concerns of Russia and China.  Equally damning, Assad holds the support of a large but diminishing population in Syria and has explicitly denied the need for assistance except from Russia (Scharf, 2016, pp. 18-23). This in effect renders the UNSC under the control of political motives over the clear need for humanitarian intervention because as of 2016 there have not been any resolution utilizing R2P in Syria.

Libya: In quoting Justin Morris (2013) he says, “in passing Resolution 1973 in March 2011. . . the UN mandated, for the first time in its history, military intervention in a sovereign state against the express will of that state’s government” (p. 1271). This is arguably the first use of R2P by the UNSC and relates the intervention in Libya and the overthrowing of Gaddafi’s regime. While Resolution 1973 passed, there was almost an instant reluctance in using R2R because of issues surrounding pillar 3. Aidan Hehir (2016) communicates this in saying, reluctance to engage with Pillar III of R2P has arguably increased in the wake of the intervention in Libya. In response to the operational evolution of the ‘no-fly zone’ in Libya into ‘regime change’ certain states – Russia, China, and South Africa in particular – determined to be more forthright in their opposition to external involvement. (p. 171)

Hehir is referring to the changing nature of mission objectives known as mission creep (Zifcak, 2015, p. 79). It is hard not to see R2P through the lens of a neo-imperialism via mission creep (Arsanjani, 2012, p. 228). This is particularly the case with the stratification of power in the UNSC at present. As Morris (2013) says to this effect regarding Pillar III, “states like China, India, and Russia, all too conscious of the massive disequilibrium in global power” (p. 1270). Zifcak (2015) underpins this further in saying, “Libya was a political killer. The Russians felt themselves to have been politically duped. Russia’s “never again” has become Libya “never again”” (p. 80). The never again in reference above is the international communities disgust in allowing the Rwandan genocide to occur, to which the genocide is a factor in the development of R2P. The intervention in Libya that caused further fracturing in the UNSC will have bloody consequences in Syria.

Syria: To understand why the R2P and the UNSC are systemically relevant to the conflict in Syria, realizing the sheer amount of complexities and variables in play is paramount. The fight for Syria is a nasty tug of war that at this moment represents the enormous schism between forces vying for domination of the Arab World. The divisions facing the Arab World represented in Syria have many faces. Is conflict in Syria a sectarian conflict between religious ideologies and an authoritative regime? Is the conflict in Syria a fight over Syria’s division of labor in terrorist organizations? Is Syria a fight by the people for more freedoms and democracy? Is Syria an existential battle between international ideologies in the UN? Is Syria a struggle for those locally seeking to define and control the Arab World as a region? Unfortunately, the answer to every one of these questions is yes. This subsection on Syria will focus on the dynamics present in the civil war and terrorist activity, coverage of the larger regional and international implications are omitted and left for the next section.

Whether or not the protests in Syria in 2011 started peacefully, the citizens of Syria rose up seeking reform and greater democracy. There is far more anecdotal evidence through social media that show the protests did, in fact, start off peacefully, but that remains a debate for Russia’s legitimacy in Syrian intervention. In the time preceding the protests, the Assad regime and revolutionaries militarized the conflict (Rostow, 2012, p. 215). In quoting Nicholas Rostow (2012), “over the past thirteen months. . . studies identify some 10,000 Syrian army defectors as forming the core of the opposition’s military strength” (pp. 215-216). The opposition fighting independent terrorist activity does not bode well for an eventual free Syria. In summarizing Simon et al. (2013), if the Assad regime can keep the cities of Aleppo and Homs it can secure a safe area on the Western borders of Syria and Lebanon (p. 11). As of 2016, the Assad regime is still in control of the capital in Damascus and the Western borders. What Simon et al. are hinting at is that Assad might not consider victory is controlling the whole state but rather the firm success in securing the Western section of Syria, which happens to be the most industrialized part of Syria (Simon et al., 2013, p. 11). As well, the Western section of Syria keeps Assad closer to the Iran supported Hezbollah terrorist organization in Lebanon (Simon et al., 2013, p. 11).

Syria and the Assad regime have long been a pass-thru for Iran’s proxy wars with Israel through Hezbollah in Lebanon. Kessler, Cobban, and Melham (1999) communicate this relationship by saying, Syria’s close and enduring ties to Iran give Damascus an alliance with the one country in the region that gives Israel and the United States some serious pause because of its anti-Israeli and anti-US impulses, its WMD programs, and sponsorship of terrorism. (pp. 103-104) Not only Iran but many other organizers of terrorism are using the conflict in Syria to their comparative advantages. The greatest factor to keep in mind in trying to simplify the myriad of groups is the dominating fight between the Islamic denominations of Sunni and Shia Muslims, of which Saudi Arabia and Iran are diabolically opposed. It is either through direct funding or different groups claiming allegiance that the Saudi’s and Iran dominate the control of terrorist organization fighting in Syria to which is further exacerbated by the presence of Chechen fighters from the Caucasus (Simon et al., 2013, p. 12).

However, speaking of the Syrian conflict without explaining the dynamics of the organizations called the Nursa Front and Daesh is a critical error. Both organizations sprang from al-Qaeda and because of this they create a high amount of confusion in Syria. In summarizing Scharf (2016), Daesh formed in the fallout of the Iraq war but quickly went on the offensive in Syria becoming the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, in this report the group is called Daesh. Due to Daesh’s divergent tactics away from the authority of al-Qaeda and the official al-Qaeda organization in Syria, known as the Nursa front, al-Qaeda firmly cut ties with Daesh in 2013 (pp. 20-21). This infighting has been the largest source of bloodshed perpetrated on the citizen of Syria other than by the Assad regime. Without looking at the international and regional complication in Syria, it is plain to see that not only is Syria fighting a sectarian conflict around politics but an added multiplier in religious strife as well.

Mahnoush Arsanjani (2012) aptly foretells the future in saying, “the United Nations will slowly fade into the background as ineffective and irrelevant, and its status as an independent international agent will be put into question” (p. 228). She says this at a conference on UN-Syria relations. As of 2016, it is hard to argue that this is not the case with the UN regarding securing and end to hostilities in Syria. In summarizing Carsten Stahn (2013), R2P has been used to define Syria’s responsibility in the conflict. However, it is left out of the discussion on external intervention (p. 962). This point is the driving wedge in the UNSC that causes stagnation in Syria as well as the UNSC as a whole, not to mention countless other conflicts in the Arab World. Daesh and the Assad regime’s continued onslaught against the people of Syria are at the pinnacle of this wedge.

The United Nations Security Council

This next section covers the international and regional implications in Syria in an attempt to explain the fault lines around R2P, the UNSC, the GCC (Saudi Arabia) and Turkey, Iran, the US, and Russia. Also covered in this section is the stagnation of reconciliation found in the nexus between the UNSC and the ICC.

ICC: To briefly shed light on an often overlooked yet important aspect of the dynamics present in the UNSC is its power over the ICC. Chapter VII of the UN Charter and Article 16 of the ICC statute creates the ICC and places the authority to refer cases to the ICC in the hands of the UNSC (Alosi, 2013, p 150). Alosi (2013) describes this further in saying, “under these two provisions the UNSC seems to be something in between a triggering institution and a gatekeeper institution” (p. 150). Important to note that once a referral is sent to the ICC and then refused to be addressed by the state in question, the UNSC has the authority to use enforcement mechanisms of Chapter VII up to military intervention (Alosi, 2013, pp 151-152).

To express the problems in this structure, Alosi (2013) describes two main contextual issues (p. 151). First, she communicates under Chapter VII the UNSC has the power to refer member-states regardless of their status as members of the ICC. Second, because the UNSC has the power of referral as well as permanent members that might be held matters to self-interest there is a diminished legitimacy in the international community towards the ICC. This has caused numerous nations to claim a hierarchy of crimes based on the states that perpetrate those crimes characterizing the ICC as politically and geographically biased (Alosi, 2013, p. 153). While the dynamics between the ICC and UNSC are but a minor part of the problems plaguing the UN, they matter because reconciliation has to include justice and fact-finding initiatives. In closing, Alosi (2013) says, “we should know that for an international judicial body to be successful some fundamental prerequisites must be in place: political, technical, and financial support, together with enforcement of arrest warrants” (p. 157).

UNSC: Backtracking from the flaws in between the UNSC and the ICC, this subsection returns to the R2P and systemic faults in the UNSC. The UNSC and UNSC member-states independently are compartmentalizing R2P and international law to dodge answering the obvious humanitarian concerns in Syria and other Arab nations (Cook, 2012, p. 654). A country can use force in another state under three conditions: consent by the host state, with the UNSC’s authorization, or when acting in self-defense (Scharf, 2016, p. 22). However, the R2P doctrine dictates that when a state cannot secure its population, also known as a failed-state, the international community has a responsibility to interject under the authority of the UNSC. Between these conditions are where critical flaws in UNSC’s operations become seen.

The US uses the consent of Iraq to legitimize its military activities against Daesh in both Iraq and Syria, without the approval of the Assad regime in Syria or the UNSC’s authorization. In summarizing Scharf (2016), he says the US State Department is not concerned with the approval of Syrian government (p. 23). Us involvement first started with Iraq and the operation called “Inherent Resolve” (Scharf, 2016, p. 22) However, on September 23, 2014, the US began conducting operations against Daesh on Syrian soil (Scharf, 2016, p. 23).

Russia has direct interest in Syria. Scharf (2016) communicates this in saying “Russia has long been a strong ally of the Assad regime, which allows Russia to keep its only Mediterranean port of Tartus (p. 23). This relationship has continued to play out with Russia through arms supplies and acting as a diplomatic force field for the Assad regime in Syria (Allison, 2013, p. 799). Roy Allison (2013) further illustrates this in saying, “Putin and the core of Assad’s regime may simply bond around a shared international outlook or identity focused on territorial sovereignty and rejection of the normative basis of the solidarity, human-focused agenda of many Western states” (p. 801). Russia also uses a frail legality in delegitimizing Pillar III of the R2P in Syria. Allison (2013) communicates this in saying, “Russian. . . claimed that the Syrian case differed materially from that of Libya in those opponents of the regime in Syria used violence from the beginning. . . and continue to do so” (p. 798). Much like the US in Iraq, Russia validates its military operations in Syria at the request of Assad’s regime (Scharf, 2016, p. 22). Russia and China have been instrumental at thwarting any UNSC resolution on Syria that mentioned the use of force or regime change, even so far as any sanctions against Assad’s regime that could end up causing change (Allison, 2013, p. 799).

The behavior of the US and Russia along with the spinelessness of the UNSC are to blame for vast differences in UN response to the various conflict of the Arab Spring. Mohammed Nuruzzaman (2013) argues Libya garnered a quick response from the UNSC because of oil and the self-interest of UNSC member-states (p. 63). He says of this, “France, the US, and the UK started targeting Gaddafi forces after they had reached oil deals with the anti-Gaddafi National Transitional Council” (p. 63). He underpins this idea further in saying “the way the Security Council reacted so quickly to the Libyan situation surprised many people as equally or more appalling human sufferings in Bahrain, Syria, and Yemen were ignored for an unexpectedly long time” (p. 63). Bahrain, Syria, and Yemen, unfortunately, are not rich in resources like Libya.

What the UNSC has shown in the Arab Spring so far has been self-interest and power politics; ethical and unethical political concerns abound both sides of the divide. Weiss (2014) even goes so far to argue, “it was not the R2P norm that explained action in Libya and inaction in Syria, but rather geopolitical and collective spinelessness combined with a difficult military situation on the ground” (p. 13). In further attacking the UNSC inability to utilize R2P in Syria Weiss (2014) mentions that even the use of chemical weapons in Syria allegedly by the Assad regime still produced no lasting results (p. 17). There are serious concerns of legitimacy in the UNSC for having unethical permanent members deciding the fate of collective-action as well as any justice that might come about after the conflict has ended. There validity in non-permanent members to the UNSC proclaiming R2P is imperialistic and that the UNSC, in general, is geopolitically biased.

What the UNSC did was to adopt Resolution 2249 on December 2, 2015, which called for the eradication of Daesh’s safe havens in Syria (Scharf, 2016, p. 24). This is entirely reactionary to the unilateral actions and norms placated under the Bush doctrine as well as Russian and US anti-terrorist/rebel military operations already existing in Iraq and Syria. As Reed Shafer-Ray (2016) says, “The United States walks a thin line between doing too little. . . and instigating an even greater escalation of war” (p. 21). This applies to the UNSC and UNSC member-states individually as well. In the wake of UNSC inaction, the Arab World is filling with more and more sectarian violence of political and religious makeup.

Regional Factors: The regional influences on Syria are even more complicated than the varied assortment of terrorist groups or the irrational behavior of the UNSC and P5 members. However, simplifying down the Arab World into lineages is helpful.

The regional factors appear as a division between Iran and Saudi Arabia or Sunni versus Shia Muslims. Admittedly, this report has purposely shied away from the religious differences in Islam and will continue for the remainder of the essay. The conflicts in the Arab World are amendable without solving the divide between faiths. However, regional organizations both terrorist and state-sponsored alliances tend to follow this religious divide. Erol Cebeci and Kadir Ustun (2012) communicate this in saying “Saudi Arabia is interested in making sure that the Sunnis win Syria at the expense of the Iranian-supported Assad regime” (pp. 19-20). Or to flip the quote back around on Iran, Cebeci and Ustun (2012) say, “Iran is working hard to make sure its connection with Hezbollah in Lebanon is not damaged. . . and that its long-time ally in the resistance front aginst Israel can continue to pursue Iran-friendly regional policies” (p. 20).  Iran and Saudi Arabia have long histories of known sponsorship in terrorist organizations to fight out their differences. However, Saudi Arabia takes it a notch further in maintaining strong political and military alliances through the GCC with undemocratic regimes in the Arab World (Helfont, 2012, p. 84). In the Syria context, Iran benefits off of Russia’s support of the Assad Regime.

Turkey, as of the recently attempted regime coup, is a bit of wild card straddling views to both the West and Arab World. Before the attempted coup, Turkey came out early for a democratic Syria (Guney, 2013, p. 53). In drawing a difference between Saudi Arabia and Turkey, Cebeci and Ustun (2012) say, Turkey and Saudi Arabia both wish to stop the Syrian regime’s brutal crackdown, but not for the same reasons. Saudi Arabia is interested in making sure the Sunnis win. This is not the same thing as Turkey’s endorsement of the legitimate demands of the Syrian people. (pp. 19-20) Israel does factor into the Syrian equation but in a much more straightforward manner. The proverb “the enemy I know is better than the enemy I do not know” may very well apply to Israel. Cebeci and Ustun (2012) state this much on Israel in saying, “a weakened but stable Assad regime. . . seems preferable. . . given the uncertain environment created by the Arab revolutions” (p. 20). This remains to be true or completely seen at the time of this writing.

The regional factors in Syria have always been present and will continue to be important. Mapping out their connections to understand how they apply to Syria, terrorism, and a general lack of regional security in the Arab World helps understand the complexities the international community face in trying to secure peace and prosperity.

Futures and Conclusions

This final section forewarns of a continued rise in authoritative regimes. All is not lost in diplomacy or the UNSC as there are still exhaustible methods for resolving the issues put forth in this report. However, the situation remains bleak as this report professes the international community will not do right by Syria, nor will it enact positive reform in the UNSC, and R2P is not going to become a firmly held norm like customary law.

Authoritative Regimes: The constant denominator in this report is authoritative regimes. As stated at the beginning of this report, the Arab World is host to numerous authoritative regimes that strip human rights and inflict horrors on their citizens. The Arab Spring was a call to the people of the Arab World for democracy and liberty. The retooling of the GCC was an underhanded answer to the Arab Spring. The UNSC has become a stagnate body held in shackles under the tyranny of permanent members and their constant desire to play politics. The UNSC as well acts as a biased authority on cases of international justice for high crimes. Even more frightening, very recent history has seen the uptick in states taking harsher political tones of power-over-the-people. These revelations are shocking; are we seeing a convergence of norms surrounding authoritative regimes or do we see a potential spark for a renewed onslaught of massive traditional or total war? Most alarming is the high likelihood the conditions are set for both of those scenarios to come true. Syria represents the fight over authoritative leanings in the Arab World. The complex connections tying Syria to the rest of the world, especially a modern and highly mobile form of terrorism, can easily be the spark that ignites this tinder box.

Futures: What possibilities are there at ushering in peace in Syria as well as rectifying the inabilities of the UNSC? First off, on the legal side of things, the ICC and UNSC suffer from operational and administration deficiencies. These are easy to remedy in comparison to other problems reported on in this essay. This should happen because Syria will require reconciliation. Stahn (2013) underpins this in saying, “there is a clear signal that formal responsibility should be addressed as part of the political settlement of the crisis” (p. 974). In an attempt to create greater legitimacy in UNSC peacekeeping, if the UNSC can undertake a more formal role in the conflict in Syria, the UNSC could make a more significant example of using the Human Rights Due Diligence Policy (HRDDP). Jacob Cogan (2015) describes the HRDDP in saying, “the HRDDP provides the organization with constructive advocacy opportunities- moments when it can actively monitor and promote human rights observance by non-UN forces” (p. 336). These first two solutions are but drops in the bucket when it comes to resolving Syria and greater problems in the UNSC

The time has come for the UNSC the utilize R2P, as well as any other applicable international law in Syria and end the violence befalling its citizens. The quickest way to ensure the UNSC can pass a resolution utilizing the R2P would be to strip the permanent members of their veto power. A more radical and warranted approach could see the P5 move to permanent advisory roles with the UN taking a higher advisory role overall and allowing regional organizations to rise to the challenge of securing peace in Syria. These solutions, however improbable, if drawn out will remedy issues of bias in the UNSC. As well, having no permanent members will see a greater chance of R2P finding use without the fear of neo-imperialism. Having no permanent members will also help weather a rise in authoritarianism. If there is a greater amount consensus in UNSC resolutions, there will be greater resolve for peace. Finally, issues of national interest will always be present in members of the UNSC. If there are no permanent members and the seats continually rotate, a fair environment for competition or lobbying is possible.

Considering the UNSC is at a stalemate regarding action in Syria, the R2P should fall to a coalition of the willing or regional organizations. Paul Williams (2012) makes a great case for using R2P when the UNSC in unable to act. In summarizing Williams (2013), first, the verified case for crimes against humanity must be made, then peaceful options must be exhausted. Next, the UNSC must be unable to act in any capacity. If the UNSC cannot act, then a limited low-intensity force can be applied to protect populations. Absent the UNSC, the authorization for the use of force must come from a legitimate organization. In the case of Syria, the GCC would be the legitimate body. Finally, intervention can only happen at the request of credible opposition groups in the country. In the case of Syria, there is arguably a lack of credible opposition at this point, but the Free Syrian Army presents an enthusiastic group (pp. 490-491). Admittedly, mustering up the political willpower absent the UNSC is an uphill battle regarding Syria.

Another solution but one that remains a long-term possibility is the US training an organized Syrian army capable of tackle the Assad regime and terrorist fighters. With the coming presidency of Donald Trump, the US being weary of this type of engagement might fly out the window. However, K.M. Pollack (2014) back this idea up in saying “the United States could create a new Syrian military with a conventional structure and doctrine” (p. 3). In gathering the support for an action like this, Pollack (2014) says, “if the rest of the world believes that Washington is determined to see its strategy through more countries will support its efforts and fewer will oppose them” (p. 3).

Conclusion: The conflict is Syria is the most complicated conflict of the 21st century and has touched so many facets of international order. The Arab Spring was a hopeful chance for numerous countries to see its citizens live with more liberty in their life. When there is an action, there is always a reaction that follows. The answer to the Arab Spring was a rise in authoritative regimes or a further entrenchment of already existing regimes. As well, the answer to most common Arabs to the Arab Spring would have to be the immediate backlash in tyrannical terrorist organizations like Daesh. The international community had an answer in R2P, but an ineffective and heavily biased UNSC has halted any progression of human rights finding a home over the supremacy of the state.

All of these factors combine to create a systemic crack in the UNSC and an increase in fighting internationally, both physical and political. Why is sovereignty in question? Because never ending conflict in any state erodes its foundations. Syria is no outlier to that as the civil war rages on into its sixth year. Since the end of the Cold-War, there has been constant debate at a marked rise in intra-state conflict; eventually one of these conflicts is going to be the one that sets in motion another large-scale international military engagement. If the international community does not stand for human rights, it won’t matter if state sovereignty is safe. Sovereignty has never stopped a determined adversary, and we don’t need to look back that far to find examples. Has anyone respected the sovereignty of the people of Syria regardless of who governs them? If there are no people there is not a population, and in effect, if there is no population there is no state.


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