Regionalized responsibilities: the Syrian case
The course of action regarding Syria in the past days highlights a new praxis of the international community actions aimed to address conflicts. The question of the novelty of an unilateral decision by a state to breach the international law violating the sovereignty of another state in the international system is perhaps the most powerful critique to the action taken by the United States.
However, if we proceed further, we will see some premises: multilateralism has failed to address the Syrian crisis, contrasting agendas of the main security providers worldwide aggravated the situation, the so-called unilateralism is in fact a multilateralism tacitly assumed by two thirds of the Earth, and the discussed state is a failed one, insecurity provider in the whole region at least, while the international agreements, including the international public law, humanitarian law, human rights law and war law, have been systematically violated in the Syrian territory. World War I inspired norms have been neglected in Syria. Also, the lack of action or incomplete action following the agreements on the use of nonconventional weapons consisted a serious violation of the international law
My perspective is focused on the regionalization of responsibilities related to conflicts. By analyzing the preferences of the main actors in in the international arena, I expect that we will see this trend in the following period, referring to the next three years. Thus, this regionalization comes based on different capacities and capabilities, but also based on some shared values, more or less, by the main actors. In their turn, these elements should be coupled with the needs and realist expectations of the actors, and with the crisis circumstances.
The approach becomes an open door to the era of pragmatism in international relations. It does not exclude some tendencies for arms races if they do not disturb the regional or global security, neither the disarmament efforts on unconventional weapons. It is compatible with the neoconservative legitimacy actions regarding foreign interventions and with flexible multipolarism. All of these while the actors’ interactions offer flexibility, the norms of the international law establish the limits to what can be done and what cannot be done, and the neoliberal complex interdependencies are reconsidered in the fields of foreign and security policies, bearing in mind different political forms of organization.
This conceptual salad is visible in what happened in the past days in Syria. United States assumed a military intervention following actions that exceeded an institutionalized limits – the use of chemical weapons in Syria – a red line firstly established declarative, followed by an agreement between the United States and the Russian Federation and, finally, endorsed by the accession of Syria to the Chemical Weapons Convention 2013. But in 2014 and, most recently, on 4th of April, we have witnessed the horrific news on the use of chemical weapons against civilian population under the jurisdiction of Syria. Proofs that chemical weapons were used exists, the prohibition exists and, moreover, we have the unwillingness of the Syrian government to fully cooperate in this matter with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. This is a clear message on how multilateralism failed and how a peaceful agreement of the main security providers for Syria has failed. Besides, there are the disputes within the Security Council and the political vetoes, and the hardly operating Geneva and Astana formats
In this context, the necessity for air strikes appeared, with a bipartisan support of the American decision-makers, even with electoral loses for the President of the United States. I was watching a video of the former GOP candidate for presidential elections during the primaries, Marco Rubio, in which he was denouncing the atrocities that took place in Syria with the chemical agents released. But what surprises me is how the actions have been undertaken. The important states were informed, there were discussions at defense ministers level on what was coming. Russia, as third party, was informed on the preparation in order to have time to protect its soldiers. The UK Secretary of Defense Michael Fallon declared, however, that the United Kingdom was not asked to join the attack, a fact that is surprising, but understandable given the history of the dynamics between their cooperation in this area, from commitment (Bush-Blair) to rejection (Obama-Cameron), and its impact. We can see a maturation of the foreign intervention in delicate situations. After the $70 million bombs have been launched destroying a targeted part of the air force infrastructure, a rapid alignment of states and international organizations occurred. Trump’s speech seems to have marked its neocon conversion, changing even its projection in the international arena.
Support announcements on the support were released by high level officials in the first part of the day from France, Germany, European Council and NATO, on 7th of April, other states indicating their alignment – allied or not, states from Europe, Middle East. Even non-alignment is a form of alignment. Meanwhile, the international community had another difficult job.
The Brussels conference organized on 5th of April focused on supporting the future of Syria and the region was overshadowed by the news of the use of chemical weapons. The conflict resolution and the intra-Syrian political transition under UN auspices were among the topics, even though the main aim was related to assistance and post-conflict reconstruction.
The conference was co-chaired by the European Union, Germany, Kuwait, Norway, Qatar, United Kingdom and United Nations, gathering an impressive number of states, international organizations and civil society actors. For the Syrian crisis response, funding commitments of EUR 5.6 billion were made aimed to support humanitarian, resilience and development activities in 2017, adding other EUR 3.5 billion for 2018-2020, together with loans pledged by multilateral development banks of up to EUR 27.9 billion of which EUR 2.2 billion on concessional terms. Regarding the grants, the European Commission and the EU member states are responsible for EUR 3.7 billion in 2017 and EUR 2.2 billion for 2018-2020, well above the sums confirmed by other states. Also, the loans are coming mainly from the pledges made by the European Reconstruction and Development Bank and the European Investment Bank. Returning to the grants for 2017, the main three donors are Germany (EUR 1.289 billion), the European Commission (EUR 1.275 billion) and the United Kingdom (EUR 582 million). 67% of the funding announcements come from the European Union – another responsibility here. The Iraqi case proved that intervention without reconstruction and long term strategic planning is doomed to fail and it develops into other crisis.
There are few regions left, but each of them has its own priorities. China needs continuity in the current direction of manufacturing production and economic globalization for trade and employment hoping that the living conditions will improve and that the sustainability of the regime will prevail. I am talking about China because is a permanent member of the Security Council, has a lot of problems and a lot of influence, it has military potential and allocates each year important resources in this direction. China is following path based on stability, predictability, peace and security, and President Xi Jinping made his first visit at Mar-a-Lago after the election of Donald Trump between 6th and 7th April. They were together after the order given by the Commander-in-Chief of the United States. Russia remains responsible for its neighbourhood and the stability of its neighbours.
Syria has been the one-off case until this day (7th of April 2017) that facilitates this type of concerted solution without having a global war: military – the United States mainly, with the tacit agreement of others, humanitarian and economic – the European Union mainly, political – the actors that have responsibilities to encourage dialogue and cooperation, that influence the local parties and can guide them to a compromise. Regionalized responsibilities.
However a specific case cannot be use as the norm to predict the future. The Syrian crisis is still there and we saw some retaliation and diplomatic tense situation. A distinct case is the Libyan one, very different, but we can look after hot spots on Earth. Some African conflicts can be approached through regionalized responsibilities, maybe with the engagement of other states as the promoter of this „shy” unilateralism when we talk about military intervention. Certainly, there are few cases that might be approached this way due to the circumstances. Syria was one of them, Iraq could be, but with considerable differences, I am thinking also about North Korea.