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Copeland: How should Canada respond to the rising violence in Syria?

By: /
27 February, 2012
By: Daryl Copeland

Former diplomat; research fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute

This is largely a hypothetical question, as Canada`s ability to influence the course of events in Syria is extremely limited.

That said, a few things seem clear.

Nasty dictators are bad, but state failure and a descent into anarchy would be even worse, especially in such a volatile region as the Middle East.

Internal Syrian politics are dizzyingly complex, and outcomes impossible to engineer by remote control. Armed intervention by outsiders, in effect taking sides in a civil war, is to be avoided.

Arming the fragmented, disparate opposition could make matters worse rather than better. The provision of humanitarian assistance through credible organizations such as the Red Crescent, however, is morally imperative and Canada should contribute generously.

The Arab League, Turkey, and others have come together in the emerging Friends of Syria contact group. Canada might usefully play some kind of supporting role in that initiative.

Continued resource reductions have damaged Canadian diplomatic potential, undercut analytical and assessment capacity, and rendered all options for progressive engagement in Syria problematic.

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