You could be forgiven from thinking as you watch and read the UK media that the altruistic desire of the Brits and US to protect civilians in Syria has been cruelly thwarted by Russians determined to maintain a naval base on the Mediterranean. With the noble exception of Channel 4 News there has been little attempt to tell the truth about the positions of the various actors. It was healthy to spend last week in Johannesburg and hear some perceptive criticism of Western dishonesty.
One factor little discussed in the Western media is the widespread perception in the rest of the world that NATO grossly abused the UN resolution authorising the protection of Benghazi to wage a war of conquest in Libya, motivated by control of oil rather than revulsion at a regime they so recently supported. It is not only Russia and China who are unlikely to trust the Western warmongers with a UN resolution again.
Megaphone diplomacy with Russia
Even if Libya had not already poisoned international perceptions of Western altruism the gross incompetence of the megaphone diplomacy attempted on Russia was always guaranteed to fail. Instead of seeking to work with Russia to find a solution Clinton, and other Western leaders, pretended that their ever more hysterical condemnations of Russian intransigence was somehow demonstrating their own integrity. The suspicion must be that blaming Russia was a convenient excuse.
Alongside a public strategy of blaming Russia the West has been quietly supporting the efforts of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to arm opposition groups in Syria. Bizarrely this means that the West is supporting the arming and engagement in Syria of the same extremist forces which are killing their own soldiers in Afghanistan. It is too soon to know what the medium term impact will be of the escalation of the military action and the channelling of arms to more extremist groups, but the initial indications are worrying.
The West is perceived by senior figures in South Africa to be seeking to topple an authoritarian regime in Syria not because of any love for the human rights of people in Syria, but because of a desire to weaken Iran. Saudi Arabia is a brutal, corrupt, misogynist, dictatorship. But the West describes their rulers as moderate and ignores Saudi Arabia’s invasion of Bahrain to crush pro-democracy activists. And the West facilitates their arming and funding of extremists in Libya and now Syria. It will continue to be difficult for the West to mobilise support at the UN so long as they engage in such blatant double standards.
Meanwhile, the Syrian people are the ones who suffer.