With the escalating tensions in Syria having dominated evening news briefings and paper headlines throughout the year, it is hard to ignore the ongoing civil war in the country that has been raging for the last two years. With the violence being reported daily, it has become increasingly difficult for the international community to delay a formal response. Global peace activist and author Vijay Mehta believes that the crisis in Syria is one of the Western World’s own creation. As Chair of the UK based charity Uniting for Peace and founding trustee of the Fortune Forum Charity, Mr Mehta has a background in political science and a long career in the peace studies and human rights campaigning. In his latest book, The Economics of Killing, Mr Mehta discusses the effects of the actions of the global elite on the rest of the world, and how we are indeed living in one of the most dangerous centuries in history. The Saint spoke with Mr Mehta about his book, and how he believes the world should be responding to the human crisis in Syria.
The Saint: What made you think to focus on ‘Western’ powers in particular in The Economics of Killing?
Vijay Mehta: It is pertinent to showcase Western powers as they are not only responsible for the $1.75 billion military spending in 2012, but also responsible for military interventions fuelling murder, torture and conflict in the world. The West tries to paint itself as more righteous and more civilised than the people they occupy and kill. These are the reasons for the focus on the West.
TS: Do you believe that it is solely the actions of the ‘global elite’ that have created this deadly cycle?
VM: Certainly. The global elite have pursued an economic model of constant growth and life is being measured in terms of money flow and profits. This has led to the rich becoming richer, and the poor poorer. This has also created a unsustainable economy exasperated by elites engaged in resource wars around the world for the extraction of oil, gas, copper and diamonds at very low prices leading to poverty, destitution and violence in those deprived regions who are rich in minerals.
TS: Would it not be fair to assert that it is the combination of actors that has created this environment and that it is the result of globalisation?
VM: Yes, it is a combination of actors including corporates, leaders, military and others, which has created this environment. Globalisation has created an interconnected world, but has not diminished violence, militarism and inequality. The greed of corporate expansion and financial globalisation has created extreme economic disparities for the majority of people including racial and ethnic groups and countries on a global scale.
TS: In regards to the escalating crisis in Syria, do you see this as the result of failing Western powers and organisations?
VM: Syria has been a battleground for major power struggles between the US and Russia. The US and its allies are funding the rebels with armaments and intelligence and encouraging them to fight the government troops, which are also supported by Russia and Iran. So it is a complex conflict where even Shias, Sunnis and Kurds are involved fighting with each other. Instead of this confrontation, the Western powers should work together to resolve the dispute.
TS: What would you advocate as a response to this? Actions from the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), action on behalf of Great Britain?
VM: Yes, there is some positive news regarding peace in Syria in which the UN Security Council and Britain are active players. Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has destroyed the equipment used to make chemical weapons and also have placed all the existing stocks under seal, impossible to break, which is a remarkable progress. Moreover, a conference of all the parties to the Syrian conflict including Government and the oppositions, the UN, Russia, the US and others is being planned to be held in Geneva which is being called Geneva 2. It is hoped that it can result in a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
TS: Is intervention in the situation of civil war justifiable? Would there be a difference if any intervention in Syria came from the UNSC or EU, or by traditional ‘Western’ peace brokers?
VM: Intervention is not the answer, not now, and never will be, as military solutions to conflicts do not work. The role of the international community is to broker a ceasefire between the warring parties and not start a war. Once the peacekeepers are in, the next step should be for Syrians to decide what type of government they wish to have to run their country and who should get involved in running it. The main task is to rebuild not only the political system and infrastructure but also the lives of Syrians including its refugees who have fled their country in fear and terror. It is time for Syrians and outsiders to cooperate and end this crisis. If the peace talk fails in Syria, there is a danger of it becoming a failed state like Somalia.
TS: You have previously alluded to the idea that ‘war is wealth’, and if that is the situation, who is making a profit from the bloodshed in Syria?
VM: War is wealth in the sense that, the more weapons are used, the more need to be produced to replace them, and hence profit for the weapons manufacturers. Here in Syria, Russia and the US are both gaining in the sense that the Assad Regime is being sold weapons by Russia on the one hand, and the rebels are being funded by the US, Saudi Arabia and Qatar on the other.
TS: You have mentioned in past speeches that you believe that the UN is in need of reform. Would not some of the goals be considered ‘Western’ ideas that you critique in your novel?
VM: Yes, the UN needs reforms as we are living in a different world than in 1945 when it was formed. The reforms needed are in the areas of Security Council, membership and funding, and they are all urgently needed.
What is also needed is a transparent, accountable and democratic UN to deal with the urgent crises of 21st Century. The ideas of creating a more equal and fairer world, including democracy, freedom of speech, protection of human rights and rule of law are essential for any good functioning government. The ideas may be western, but no regime can last long if it is on a path of continuous repression against its citizens, which amount to crimes against humanity.
TS: How would they differ from traditional Western Foreign Policy?
VM: This is an ethical question, in which Western Foreign Policies under the pretext of domination of other countries flag democracy and rule of law while they subjugate other countries with threats, wars and hidden agendas, which is an aggressive approach.
TS: Do you believe that intervention in Libya was a mistake? How would you compare the situation in Syria to the environment in Libya leading up to intervention?
VM: Yes, it was a mistake, as the country is becoming a lawless country and a failed state. Syria is not going on that path as, firstly the chemical weapons are being destroyed and secondly, frantic efforts are being pursued for another international peace conference, Geneva 2. I hope sanity prevails and peace, which is very elusive for Syrians at the moment, becomes a reality. If that does not transpire, there will be a bloodbath, not only in Syria, but the entire Middle East. I hope that does not happen. The International community has a duty to work towards a peaceful and safer future.