Tuesday, September 03, 2013

We should negotiate to end the Syrian civil war

I came upon an amazing article this weekend. It was from McClatchy back on 3 June 2013, Assad
Backers Reportedly Make Up 43 Percent of Dead in Syria
. It is based upon work by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) which is based in London. The article claims that, "The observatory... is considered the most authoritative source for reports on the daily violence in Syria, and it's the only group that routinely attempts to categorize deaths according to whether the victims were civilians, rebels or government fighters."

The results are exactly what you would expect if you don't have an ax to grind. War is hell, and civil war is especially so. According to SOHR, 43.2% (41,648 total) of the deaths are Asaad forces and aligned militias; 36.8% (35,479 total) are civilians; and 17.3% (16,699) are anti-Asaad forces. We can't say who is responsible for the civilian deaths, but even if we assume that Asaad is responsible for all the civilian casualties, the deaths are pretty equally shared.

Of course, these numbers are not without doubt. The Syrian Network for Human Rights counts only rebel and civilian deaths, but their numbers are quite different: 75,992 civilians and 7,606 rebel deaths. I don't think that this changes the picture much, even if these numbers are correct. It is clear that there are massive casualties on both sides and among the civilians.

Yesterday, Straits Times reported that SOHR now estimates that 110,371 people have been killed in Syria since the March 2011 uprising. For these, at least 40,146 are civilians. A common liberal complaint about all this talk of war with Syria is in the context of all the people who have died while we've stood by. The argument for war is something about national credibility.

So the question to me is why our focus is not on ending the conflict. What we are doing is further indicating that we really don't care about Syria at all. We don't even care about the chemical weapons attack. We just want an excuse to attack Assad. The situation is terrible for everyone. We have a great opportunity to work with Russia to put an end to the Syrian civil war. So why aren't we doing that?

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)


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