November 3rd, 2015 –
By: Joaquin Flores –
part report investigating the real causes of the war on Syria
I: Overcoming obstacles in writing and
reporting on the Syrian Conflict – Introduction
debate surrounding the origins of the war in Syria is of critical importance. The outcome of this conflict will be a major
factor in determining the balance of power in the world during the coming
period. With the recent and
interestingly sudden refugee surge from the region into Europe, followed later
by an increase in participation of Russian military forces in the conflict,
being able to make sound and unbiased assessments of the causative factors in
this conflict is a pressing need.
looking at the question, we first would like to discuss the reasons for the
writing of this report. The political sciences contain the taxonomic and
conceptual framework, and explanatory power, to describe the causes of the
Syrian conflict. But in the west, lay
journalistic and semi-analytic write-ups, and otherwise accessible writing on
the subject, does not make adequate use of much of these well developed ideas. These relate perhaps to practical problems
relating to publishing space, as well as how writers and publishers have
assessed the capacity of mass audiences to make use of, or absorb, said
In cases where western analytic
works are in question, documents coming from mainstream think-tanks which
deliver analysis both to governmental institutions and to the public, may
indeed be engaged in willful misrepresentation of the operating schema. The
approach of the author in related works has been to target the ‘real audience’:
already well informed citizen-activists and ‘geopolitical trainspotters’ who have
read possibly hundreds of articles on the subject, only to be confronted with
recurring characterizations, recirculated memes and tropes, which
problematically combine the recitation of facts alongside politically
task therefore is to bridge the gap between objective and systematic analysis
and accessible presentation: making use of standardized tools without
prejudice, delivered without a reliance on references not already generally
accessible to the audience. This necessarily
involves some discussion of the histories of all of the players. While the total work will require 6 parts,
each being slightly longer than a standard article’s length, it will condense
and present information with a discussion in such a way that in fact
contextualizes much of the public writing on the subject, and indeed perhaps will
liberate the reader from the onerous task of data-mining in – what would
otherwise be – hundreds of other articles.
as mentioned above, the present public and accessible literature on the subject
of the Syrian conflict is problematic.
in other attempts to describe the Syrian conflict arise from factors external
to the present body of literature on the subject: there are few if any really
concealed facts or truths which could make understanding the conflict
difficult. Real issues arise in
narratives, over-focus on some facts to the exclusion of others, and
real-politik concerns relating to political polarization. This report will not
review this existing literature and public writing, but instead will take a
‘clean slate’ approach, and rely on either uncontested facts, generally
accepted facts, or otherwise easy to reference findings and assertions.
Syrian crisis since its inception has generated a significant volume of western
public literature, as attempts have been made to address the fundamental
question of the war’s causes, and what the primary issues were that catalyzed
and fueled its genesis. While some of these efforts were well-intentioned and
partially thorough, and yet other efforts intentionally disingenuous, they were
similar in their attempts to provide an answer to one of the greatest apparent
geopolitical debates of the present time.
have hitherto been represented in the public presentations of think-tanks, both
governmental (and related, such as the Council of Foreign Relation’s ‘Foreign Policy’) and independent, alike.
The debate over the war and its origins has once again polarized
non-interventionist and anti-imperialist socio-political movements in the west
as well, and has made strange political bedfellows of advocates, activists, analysts,
and even the players themselves, on ‘either side’ of this conflict.
conflict has drawn particular attention to questions revolving around national
sovereignty and the right of peoples to self-determination; to the role of
NGO’s and non-profits sanctioned by the UN; to the relationship and shared
rights between minority and majority demographic groups, whether religious or
ethnic, within a modern nation-state; and as well as issues revolving around
the inherent and internationally recognized rights of nations to preserve their
security and represent their people(s) within the framework of international
law and the UN charter.
the conflict has shed light on issues relating to foreign state’s use of proxy
or mercenary armies; the role of weaponized and proxy volunteer or
ideologically/religiously based social-movements deployed for use in another
conflict has drawn attention to the roles and relationships of governments in
their efforts to balance between ‘legitimacy’ on the one hand, and the external
pressures placed on them to increasingly ‘liberalize’ (i.e. privatize and open
to foreign control and ownership) their economies as well as the liberalization
of pluralist civil institutions.
and Polarization: why public writing on the Syrian conflict is deficient
theories provided to date which attempt to summarize the issue in any case have
different problems, but in the case of honestly and well presented literature,
the authors are not at fault per se.
Rather, the deficiencies of these writings are a product of two
problematic factors at work: the multitude of factors at play combined with the
polarizing nature of the conflict.
undertaken to simply “point a finger” and suggest that, that there is
one specific reason this crisis came to be is an erroneous conclusion, and
counterproductive to a more complete and accurate understanding of the question:
what caused the Syrian crisis?
caused the Syrian crisis?
answer to this question is far from simple and requires in-depth analysis of
all associated materials and variables rather than attempting to identify one
specific causative agent (i.e. person, state, process, phenomenon, or
ideology). Politics and sociology are anything but simple, and foreign policy
and geostrategy is of even equal complexity.
answers are unpopular, and are not ready-made for mass circulation. Understanding of the problems involves
something of a learning curve, and certain processes and the underlying
theories which describe them are currency among experts, but are somewhat
unknown to lay readers, even those with considerable fact-based information on
of the subject, as stated, is another reason for problematic analysis. Out of concern that certain conclusions
related to the cause of the war will be taken out of context by later critics
or readers, ultimately opposed to the
conclusions of the author, or used by other analysts and writers in a decontextualized
manner, work to greatly discourage an analytic piece which looks at all of the
causes of the conflict.
impossible to reach conclusions about the reasons for a war which has caused
such a catastrophic loss of life, especially when issues of war-crimes and
crimes against humanity are at issue, which do not conclusively provide
ammunition to one of the various sides in a real-existing and still on-ongoing
conflict. Thus, researchers are prone to omit or soften focus on causes for the
conflict which may be deemed to work against the general conclusions or
narrative being presented.
the necessary sources to look at in attempting to analyze the causes of this
conflict are military leaders themselves.
Many of the military leaders that are interviewed to provide their
feedback about the Syrian crisis often respond—“Syria is complicated.” While
this answer is in many respects seemingly evasive or inconclusive, it is
actually the best answer that can be provided.
Syria is complicated, but why?
so complicated about a state one-third the size of Texas? What factors make it
so? What is the origin of this apparent complexity? Why is a solution so
difficult to arrive at? Why has the conflict in Syria become one of the
greatest human tragedies in recent decades?
and more critical analysis of the associated factors must be applied. In order
to adequately describe the conflict in Syria, one must understand the history
and this act is best accomplished if each involved party is examined
independently and also concomitantly; It
is the attempt of this analysis to do exactly that.
the Middle Eastern region and outside unequivocally assign primary responsibility
to one state, person, process, or ’cause’. In order to better identify the
Syrian crisis all involved states, or more specifically persons with interests,
must be contemplated. Arriving at the answer is not a simple task because many
persons and states are involved, both directly and indirectly.
than focusing on every party and state involved and how they have contributed
to the Syrian crisis this analysis will focus on the primary state
candidates—Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel. It is best to examine each
state independently to better identify the cause for their involvement, but
before this is done we must take a moment and understand what Syria is and why
summarize the findings, historical background and information about the various
players is presented elsewhere inconsistently. Regarding the conflict itself, there are multiple causative factors, some the
products of direct human agency, and others – when going back in time – are indirect or unintentional ‘perfect storm’
types of causes or catalysts. These involve what a number of external actors such as neighboring states and hegemonic powers did, whether as a result of their own agency as such, or as a result of being compelled, yet, by still other causative factors. These are
of the subject made reporting difficult.
Recognition of 1.) the rational
and/or legitimate basis of the demands of the opposition; alongside of 2.) a recognition that government
policy of the Syrian government was significantly problematic; together with
3.) a view that the Syrian state made notable errors, including violations of human rights – broadly defined, in the initial stages of
the conflict, and that 4.) Syrian domestic and foreign policy for years leading
up to the initial protests were a significant causative factor, is difficult to do when a given analysts’
ultimate conclusion is that the best solution to the crisis involves the
integrity of the Syrian state administered by and large by its present
recognition that the Syrian government has 1.) met either all or the most
critical of the legitimate opposition’s demands; 2.) that the alternative to the present
government posed by the predominant Islamist ‘rebel’ factions will be
tremendously worse all around; and 3.) that
public polling and elections during the course of the conflict have
demonstrated increased rather than decreased support for the Syrian government;
and that 4.) uninvited foreign states and foreign backed actors have not only
exacerbated the conflict but indeed were involved in planning it, are
practically impossible facts to include when the conclusion of a given analyst
is that the ‘resolution’ talks must result in a devolution of power away from the
present Syrian government, and a transition to a different government which
satisfies the Western powers.