'Each man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world'
-- Arthur Schopenhauer, Essays and Aphorisms

'Artists are tricky fellows sir, forever shaping the world according to some design of their own'
-- Jonathan Strange, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Cracks in the Resistance: Homs is not Benghazi

NATO airpower meant that the army, which was still very much under the control of Qaddafi, couldn't move to and around Benghazi, which in turn meant that the city's population could not be brutally suppressed. Logistically, operating from Italian airbases, enough sorties could be flown to drastically reduce the number of army units around the city.

The absence of a UN resolution and the presence of 'great power' politics means that the situation in Homs resembles a Benghazi without NATO intervention. A superb report from the BBC World Service this morning talked of rival resistance leaders, who could not stand one another, see the further reporting from Paul Wood here. It also suggested that the army was showing no signs of disintegrating and still held the monopoly on violence. In Egypt, the army stood to one side, remember.

A further important distinction to be made is the absence of heavy weaponry among the resistance. The army have armour and heavy weapons and hence can control large urban areas more easily. They have cut off likely supply routes so that illicit channels cannot be used to arm the resistance. Which makes Homs the vanguard of the Arab Spring in that it represents a suppressed population resisting by itself a minority ruling entity. And Syria is set to become a net importer of oil within a decade if current trends continue meaning its role as an energy supplier to the West is negligible, meaning it's strategic interest to the West is negligible:

What resonance do the events in Homs have for the West? Little, if media interest is used to gauge appetite. Unless illicit channels are used to coordinate resistance and arm it, Homs will be used by the Assad regime as an example, and history is replete with the teaching of lessons. From Alexander levelling Thebes (after which Athens was shocked into submission), to Michael Leeden saying that, 'every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.' It isn't culture specific. It's the will to power. And the situation in Homs is currently accelerating in its seriousness as a humanitarian issue.

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