The recent ceasefire in Syria, spearheaded by Russia and Turkey, is virtually dead. On December 30, 2016, less than twenty-four hours after the agreement was implemented, sporadic violence between rebels and government forces erupted. Clashes have continued since then, as President Bashar Al-Assad attempts to recapture rebel-held territory in the suburbs of Damascus.
The ceasefire’s unraveling is neither new nor surprising. All previous attempts to enforce a truce have collapsed within hours of their announcement, a trend that is likely to continue and diminish the probability of a lasting peace in the foreseeable future. This, combined with inadequate international efforts to deliver food, medical aid, and other basic amenities to besieged areas in Syria, makes it clear 2017 will be as horrifying and disastrous for Syrians as 2016.
Despite this reality, antiwar coalitions in the United States continue in their failure to meaningfully mobilize against the war in Syria. Beyond blindly reaffirming their staunch opposition to U.S. intervention and disdain for the “Salafist” rebels, many members of the antiwar left have done little more than express superficial anguish at the country’s crisis.
This is particularly astonishing given the United States’s intervention in Syria for well over two years. In 2016 alone, for example, the United States dropped approximately 12,192 bombs in Syria, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. Notably, this made up nearly 50% of the bombs the Obama administration dropped across the world last year.
The antiwar movement speaks about Syria, however, as though the United States has yet to intervene. This narrative is so widespread that it can even be found in mainstream outlets like The New York Times (“Don’t Intervene in Syria”) and The Washington Post (“Why the United States hasn’t intervened in Syria”).
The American antiwar movement, which once viciously protested the invasion of Iraq, has fallen conspicuously silent in the face of Syria’s dystopian tragedy. In fact, when Russia militarily intervened on behalf of Assad in order to “combat terrorism” in September 2015, some so-called antiwar leftists welcomed the move as potentially positive, instead of organizing protests outside the Russian embassy calling for military deescalation.
Compare this with the antiwar movement’s impeccable record of protesting whenever the Gaza Strip is being razed. Instead of taking the same approach and articulating a response to Syria’s tragedies using the language of moral imperatives, many so-called antiwar leftists have instead demonstrated that their most primal political fear—that of a military intervention in which the “Salafist” opposition takes power following Assad’s ouster—is more important to them than helping to end human suffering.
As Charles Davis wrote in an article for Muftah, those in the antiwar left who spent all their energy combatting a future U.S. intervention against Assad “should be forced to own the fact that all they have ever offered Syrians is opposition to a war that never was, coupled with silence on the wars that are killing them now.”