Nicholas Noe in HuffPost, “When NGOs Call For Military Intervention in Syria: The Case of the International Crisis Group”
Read online in full here:
In July 2011, a mere four months into the Syria revolt, the venerable, Brussels-based conflict-mitigation NGO, International Crisis Group (ICG), released a lengthy report with the provocative title, “The Syrian Regime’s Slow-motion Suicide.”
“The situation has reached an apparent stalemate,” the report’s authors declared, “but it would be wrong to bet on the status quo enduring. Economic conditions are worsening; should they reach breaking point the regime could well collapse. Predominantly Allawite security forces are overworked, underpaid and increasingly worried. They could conclude that the regime is unsalvageable and defect, precipitating its end.”
By projecting such certainty that the regime was essentially in its death-throes, and then ignoring any serious discussion about how Russia, Iran or Lebanon’s Hezbollah might possibly intervene to change the calculus (the trio are barely mentioned in the report), ICG laid an important intellectual plank for the erroneous assumption that was then gathering steam in so many world capitals: It was just a matter of time before the regime led by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad imploded.
Regrettably, ICG’s overconfidence in regime suicide not only encouraged the premature and disastrous rejection of diplomacy that has helped prolong the Syria war. It also essentially abdicated the main role for which peace, promotion, and conflict mitigation NGOs exist in the first place: Advocating for strong international engagement and negotiated solutions that regard the safety of civilian populations as paramount.
“The international community’s options remain limited,” the report concluded. “The world’s cautious attitude has been a source of deep frustration and even anger for the protesters. That is entirely understandable, yet such caution might well be a blessing in disguise. The regime is unlikely to respond to international pressures, regardless of their provenance. Ultimately, the burden lies with the protesters…”
Should a leading NGO dedicated to active, international involvement in crises simply throw up its hands and say there isn’t much outside actors can do other than watch? And might not good-faith diplomacy — instead of a false choice between military intervention or passivity — offer the best way to minimize any fallout if the regime doesn’t end up committing suicide?
Fast-forward to this past week, and one can see that ICG has finally answered these lingering questions with the publication of a report titled, “New Approach in Southern Syria” that expands on a late-April “policy framework.”
In sharp contrast to its stance four years ago, ICG now asserts that the situation in Syria is dangerously stuck in a cycle of disintegration and expanding radicalism that benefits neither the regime nor a much diminished “moderate opposition.”
Voyeurism is no longer an option — a conclusion with which almost all observers can agree.
But the authors then make a significant turn for a conflict-mitigation group, arguing that introducing more layers of conflict — armed “escalation” led by America — is essentially the only credible way forward…
CONTINUED IN FULL HERE: