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The Syrian Civil War – A Fight That Was Lost From The Start

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War is all-conquering but its victories are short-lived; but can it really be considered a victory if everything is lost in the process? A hopeless war with no foreseeable end is not a war worth fighting. The identity of a country rests in its citizens. In the case of Syrian citizens, that identity is now blurred and tarnished. During the civil war in Syria upwards of 465,000 Syrians killed. Over a million people were injured, and over 12 million, half the country’s pre war population have been displaced across the world, far from their home. Bashar-Al Assad and the Syrian government have instilled a clear lack of freedoms and economic woes. The manner in which the Syrian government managed themselves and their country drove resentment towards them. The violent and brutal crackdown on protesters only added fuel to the flame in the hearts of citizens nationwide. Civilian casualties were high as was seen by the losses of protesters, soldiers and innocent citizens. There was no gain to this violence as whatever was expected as the ideal outcome of this war will never justify the losses and destruction suffered. Chances of victory were slim opposing to the Syrian government who were fighting against a collection of unarmed citizens and protesters with small military support. Based on the criteria from the Just War Theory, the Syrian government conduct is not just.

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The aftermath effects of this war was immense and civilian casualties reached insurmountable numbers. The Syrian government used many unethical tactics when instilling violence upon their own people. Such tactics include but are not limited to: using prohibited weapons, indiscriminate strikes on holy grounds and villages who of which took no part in the war and restrictions to humanitarian aid. Countries around the world such as: Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt took in roughly 10 million refugees while as many as 6.6 million are displaced inside Syria. In 2018 from February 18th to March 21st over 1,600 civilians alone were killed. In January 2019, the Syrian government updated civil registries to include death certificates for hundreds of individuals previously detained or disappeared by the government. The updates provided no specific details other than date and, occasionally, cause of death, and the government failed to provide the remains to the families. Meanwhile, the Syrian government continues to detain and mistreat individuals in areas under its control. In April 2018, a chemical attack was launched on a refugee center in the city of Douma, infecting over 500 injured Syrian citizens and killing 115. The Just war theory explains that the suitable criteria for civilian casualties is that of which “innocent citizens must never be the target of war, soldiers should always avoid killing citizens”. The world’s worst refugee crisis has overwhelmed neighboring countries and fueled an unprecedented influx of migrants to Europe. The Syrian government has no regard for the lives of their citizens and has gone far enough as to attack and use them as an example of their tyranny. Many are now homeless and live as outcasts around the world. They left century old heritage in cities such as Aleppo, Hama and Damascus but cannot go back in fear of their own lives being taken away from them by the Syrian militia, radical extremist groups or minefields. Minefields of which occupy homegrown communities filled with mosques, schools, stores and hospitals. Innocent women and children were forced to leave their homes while fathers stayed and took part and rebelled against a clearly stronger and more organized militia that they had no chance of defeating.

The Syrian Civil war was many things, but evenly matched was not one of them. The criteria of probability of success was violated. The rebels had little to no help for months at a time in some cities and were pulled together by rogue soldiers and every rebellious able bodied man at the time. From the start, citizens were only defending themselves. Rebel groups have now formed, that have done no better in minimizing destructive output and civilian casualties. The ratio for the opposing army sides are 42:1. That means that for every 42 soldiers fighting for the Syrian government. There is just 1 Syrian soldier. More than half of the countries men are in prisons. The Syrian Network for Human Rights estimates that 117,000 people have been detained overall since 2011, and 65,000 of them are still in custody. Thousands have died under torture, and the whereabouts of many others are unknown. Pertaining to the criteria, the probability of success means that the war should be winnable, if it is not, it would be a pointless effort ,causing only violence. While it may have started as peaceful protests and self defence, Syrian rebel groups are outmanned, outgunned and very well surrounded out of all wanted territories, with government forces controlling 68% of Syria’s land. Although it is apparent that the Syrian government may come close to winning control of Syrian land, they lost the true battle for a country: the culture and people apart of it.

The long term negative effects of this war are clearly greater than the positives gained in the end; the criteria of proportionality was obviously violated. As of November 2017 there was a total of 109,393 detected damaged structures. 2016 witnessed the highest damage with a total count of 77,568 structures. 29.3% of the detected structures in Syria are untouched while 37% are moderately damaged, 35.3% are severely damaged and the rest 27.7% is destroyed. Even in cities were the fighting has officially ended – such as Homs, Aleppo and Raqqa government reconstruction is almost nonexistent, instead falling to civilians to mend the pieces of their broken neighborhoods as best they can. Aleppo has gone from a bustling city of more than 2 million people about the size of Milwaukee, to a crumbling and bloodstained shadow of its former self. Even after the fighting has ended. There is no protection and suffering continues. There is a permanent scar on the grounds of Syria that may take decades to clear. The gain is nothing more than total control at the cost of freedom for the men, women and children who call it home. The Just War criteria follows the notion that “the war will have long-term positive outcomes outweighing the short-term negative effects of the war”. In this case, it is obviously switched.

Cities burned, thousands killed all in hopes of an end. A government that collapsed on itself and its people. Syria will never be the same again. Both armies fully composed with Syrian citizens. Both sides slaughtered one another. Women and children caught in the crossfire. Shocking amounts of lives just needlessly eliminated. Whatever, the intended effect of both sides were, anyone with the death toll and refugee count in front of them would deem the effort futile. A fight that was lost from the start. A clear mismatch of power to begin with. The Syrian government managed to cripple their country by attempting to “defend” it. Based on the criteria from the Just war theory, the Syrian government conduct is not a just war. The Syrian government attacked their own people, lost more than they would gain and destroyed a country in the process. The fighting has mostly minimised in populous cities but the fight itself, will never be forgotten.

14 May 2021

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