At the latest G8 Summit, world leaders, most notably British Prime Minister David Cameron, President Obama, and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the growing crisis in Syria and finally broached the critical topic of peace talks. The international community has involved themselves in the conflict, with mixed results and in intriguing ways.
While humanitarian aid has been slow, some might even say absent, this dearth has been supplanted by supplying the Syrian government and the opposition with arms. Putin has unashamedly said he will continue to supply the Syrian government with lethal and non-lethal aid. Obama's recent decision to send lethal aid to the Syrian rebels has released a maelstrom of concerns ranging on the spectrum from people who fear that we are helping Muslim extremists to those who have affected a blasé attitude and consider any help at this point to be too little too late. Both of these are valid concerns.
Obama's statements were quite vague and there appears to be a high degree of uncertainty as to just who these Syrian rebels would be. Based on some of the reports emerging from the region, there are certain fighters operating under the umbrella of the Syrian opposition who we do not want to outfit. This concern is best exemplified in the shocking case of 14 year-old Muhammad al-Qatta, who was killed in cold blood on June 9. The teen was kidnapped, tortured and ultimately killed for making a joking remark about the Prophet Muhammad that was mistaken for blasphemy.
But we saw what happened in Rwanda when President Clinton failed to intervene. State leaders dragged their heels and waded through the bureaucratic waters of semantics while refusing to label the horrific violence as a genocide. When Clinton promised "never again," he was referring to the U.S. sitting idly by while genocide ravaged the 21st century. But those two words can be applicable to a whole host of modern conflicts, where humanitarian intervention can change the tide of a crisis and save countless lives. And you don't save lives by providing lethal aid. Reports have put the current death toll at 93,000 lives claimed in Syria since 2011.. Shipping more guns into the war-torn region will not halt the growing death count.
What these heads of state really need to do is stop talking with their guns. Neither the rebels nor the government are going to come to peace talks of their own volition and it will take pressure from the superpowers who are quietly perpetuating the conflict to finally bring them to the negotiating table. The Chicago Tribune reports that talks to plan peace talks have so far been fruitless. Nobody can even agree on who should be involved in the negotiation. And while the men of foreign governments sit locked in a stalemate over which countries deserve to attend or who would even represent the diverse rebel groups, mortar rounds and artillery shells are raining over Damascus and boys like Al-Qatta are dying in the streets.