March 4, 2012

“Tactical retreat” as euphemism for defeat

    Sunday, March 04, 2012   No comments

The so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) announced on March 1st that its members are withdrawing from the Homs neighborhood, Baba Amr, in a tactical retreat. They provided two explanations. First, they claimed that they are retreating to protect the remaining civilians still in the city. Second, some said that they are retreating because they ran out of ammunition. Both explanations are indicative of the gravity of the situation in Syria.
When taken in the context that the FSA justified taking arms to protect civilians from the regime, the claim of a tactical retreat when civilians are still in the city brings serious doubt about their armed confrontation strategy. Those who advocate for an armed rebellion against the state do not understand the validity of the argument for peaceful protest. When groups engage in violent challenge of the state, they challenge the state in an area where it is strongest. Because the modern state exerts its power through a monopoly on the use of violence, armed resistance rarely succeeds without a huge cost in blood and destruction among civilians.
The warning issued by the FSA leaders after the retreat to hold the Syrian regime responsible for the lives of civilians is a sad gimmick and a contradiction in logic. They are responsible for deaths among civilians because they promised that they will protect them knowing that they may fail to do so. Armed violent groups cannot blame a brutal regime for violence. Only a peaceful uprising, as argued by many of the opposition leaders inside Syria, can bring about a change.
It is likely that some of these groups took up arms when they were given assurances by neighboring states that they will support them. Saudi Arabia and Qatar have publicly expressed their desire to arm these groups. Short of a UNSC resolution allowing such a move, any military aid to armed groups can only be done clandestinely. That will not be enough to challenge one of the strongest militaries in the region.
If the Syrian uprising is aborted without bringing the desired change, those who took arms and those who supported arming opposition groups will be the ones responsible for the failure.  


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