While the world’s gaze if fixed on London and the Olympics, in Syria, the battle for Aleppo has well and truly begun. This is clearly an attempt by the Assad regime to reassert itself after the bombings and raids into Damascus that knocked it so badly off-balance. So, it is a crucial battle, whichever side wins will have the momentum in the conflict and a possibly decisive tactical advantage. You can’t help but feel that if Assad and his loyal forces win that the retribution against the city itself and the Syrian people in general will be swift and bloody and although it may be far away from here and seemingly a world away from the glitz and glamour of London, the repercussions will inevitably be felt eventually on British shores.
However, the international community, such as it is, is merely a spectator in this fight, it is watching on, nervously, pensively awaiting an outcome it feels itself powerless to change. If we are to talk of ‘Western hypocrisy’ then here is where that discussion must start. When it was Benghazi facing a similar fate to Aleppo, action was taken, but now there is none. The Syrian people have been left to fend for themselves because there is neither the will nor any real concrete proposals for action. Instead, we are cowering before the almighty veto of Russia and China, two tinpot despotisms whose interest is in maintaining a steady consumer of their arms in situ, no matter what the human cost. Of course, our governments with the same self-interested mopdus operendi, it would be fantastically naive to pretend otherwise, but to move from that to suggesting the actions of the Syrian people themselves are illegitimate in seeking freedom is equally as naive and totally disingenuous.
The left struggles to see people as individuals or understand the place of individuality in life and in politics. Just because Western governments have jumped on the bandwagon provided by the Free Syrian Army doesn’t mean the FSA are ‘imperialist stooges’, it is perfectly possible they are individual actors who are doing things for their own, totally different reasons. Similarly, it is fantastically naive to refer to election results produced by a dictatorship as proof positive of well anything let alone having any democratic legitimacy. It is impossible to have an election result that is truly representative (and therefore having a democratically legitimate outcome) held while the business end of a gun is pointing at the electors heads. Maybe the opposition to Assad is a minority but the fact is that all battles for freedom start with the revolt of a determined minority (there is no recorded revolution that has started off with a revolutionary majority, thats why they are always bloody) but even if this is the case that ignores the possibility of a minority becoming a majority and the rights of that minority to fight to become a majority. The only feasible way for that to happen under a dictatorship is armed struggle, Syria isn’t Britain, the minority cannot stand for election, they cannot struggle to win support for their views that way, to question the state in Syria is to be an enemy of the state and that means if your a dissident you have to be prepared to fire a gun or else be shot in the head or be tortured until you recant.
It is all very well for trendy ‘anti-imperalist’ lefties in this country to lecture Syrians from the comfort of their London apartments but it isnt principled politics at all. Far from being principled it is the opposite, a betrayal of our first principle, the duty to stand with people fighting for their freedom. It flows from a complete lack of understanding of the world around us, what these struggles are and what they mean from us and more than anything it shows that left-wing politics in this country is broken. Mehdi Hasan tweeted last night that the ‘sins of Mitt Romney dont excuse those of Barack Obama’. Mehdi is right and that is why the left is wrong. The West’s wrong policy towards Israel, Burma, even its complicity in supporting regimes those like Assad’s in the past are not enough to make Assad right. Even given all those undoubted crimes, he is still wrong, and the cause of the Free Syrian Army is still a just one and we are still wrong to stand-by and do nothing, let this travesty happen while we enjoy a sporting festival.