Thursday, February 23, 2012

Pioneering new forms of intervention

Foreign intervention may be the lesser of two evils in Syria - but could still result in a chaotic aftermath.

By Mark LeVine

"Irvine, CA - Ramy Syed, the Syrian activist and videographer known as "Syriapioneer" - who was killed the other day by the Syrian government forces whose brutal violence he helped expose to the wider world - wasn't a pioneer in the normal sense of the word.

He wasn't the first person to use cell phone cameras and YouTube to show the world the horrific reality of state-sponsored violence against civilians. Egyptian activists have been showing videos of police torture for years, while Libyan activists last summer gave the world a front row seat to the protests, and then insurgency, against Gaddafi - whose own demise, or at least the moments surrounding it, were also filmed and broadcast for the world to witness via social media.

But for the sheer volume of postings - 835 in total, the last four of them posthumous - and the brutality of the evil they depict, Syed had few equals. To watch just a handful of the videos he put up over the last seven months is to move beyond the increasingly politicised arguments over whether or not there should be outside military intervention to stop the bloodshed in Syria, and into the frame of blood and death that has come to define life for untold tens, if not hundreds of thousands of Syrians.

Anyone who rejects intervention should spend half an hour on Syed's video channel or Facebook page and see if they still hold the same view. Watching even a few videos gave me the same feeling I had last summer when speaking with Libyan refugees in Tunisia. Geopolitics and imperial games suddenly don't matter as much; as a young woman talked about relatives under siege in Misrata or an elderly man talked of a grandson stranded in Benghazi, their voices shook as they implored listeners to persuade their governments to support the rebels.....

And so it will be in Syria, where any foreign military intervention will unavoidably empower the very forces and networks that, assuming they emerged victorious, will find it hardest to support a truly broad and democratic transition in Syria, one that would afford all citizens a fair and level political and economic playing field....

Given all that Ramy Syed sacrificed for bringing the reality of Assad's death machine to the world, the least we all can do is heed his request and do our best to push our governments not merely to condemn and even intervene to stop the violence, but to change the ultimate goals behind their broader foreign policies, which for decades stood by while Assad father and then son, ruled Syria with an iron hand as long in so doing he didn't interfere with, and even preserved the regional and even global order against which the cries "The people want the downfall of the system!" are now being heard, in Syria and across the Arab world."

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