Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Syria and the Elephant in the Room

Some years ago, I was contacted by someone from the local Soviet Embassy who explained to me that they were giving away free trips for two to the Soviet Union as a goodwill gesture to people in other nations.

Being a natural sceptic who suspected a hoax, I asked for the lady’s phone number and politely ended the call.  I looked up the number for the Soviet Embassy and sure enough, it matched the number she had given me.

When I called the number back, the same lady answered the phone.  We chatted for a few minutes to explore the “prize”, after which I said I would think about it and hung up.

A few minutes later, my phone rang again but this time a member of the Canadian Intelligence community was on the phone.  He had listened to the conversation I had had with the lady at the Embassy and was now calling to explain what was really happening.

It turned out that I was on a list of people with Canadian Government Top Secret clearance.  The Soviets were calling everyone on the list to offer them genuine trips for two to the Motherland.  While in Moscow, they would wine and dine you and subtly explore whether or not you had a background of particular interest.  If so, they would work hard to “convince you” to immigrate to the Soviet Union.  Otherwise, you had a nice visit on their dime.

All was not what it appeared to be.

The same holds true with the issues that are unfolding in Syria (and a number of other nations for that matter).

The massacre that occurred in Houla, Syria is a heinous act that must be addressed immediately.  Unfortunately, speed is a trait not often demonstrated by the UN.

Then There’s the Elephant

Unfortunately, in addition to the toothlessness often demonstrated by the UN, there is an elephant in the room that must be addressed if we really want to tackle issues like the Syrian slaughter and other international matters.

Syria has a standing arms purchase agreement with Russia that will, when finally executed, have delivered over $4 billion in weapons over the course of the next 5-10 years.

Weapons that the Syrian government is using to kill its own citizens.

Russia, a member of the Security Council of the UN, is a significant enabler of the events in Syria.  They are not the only one (other nations including Iran and North Korea also contribute) but they are the single largest player.

The Security Council, within its mandate, may "recommend appropriate procedures or methods of adjustment if it determines that a situation might endanger international peace and security. “

Of course, such a mandate becomes problematic when members of the Security Council are the ones endangering the peace and security of other nations in the first place.

If I put a gun in the hands of a 15 year old boy and he kills someone with it, he need to be punished.

However, as the enabler, I must be punished also.

Especially since, as the more “mature” person, I should have known better.

By the same token, the Syrian government must not be allowed to go scot-free when it comes to the evil they are perpetrating on their own people.

However, we need to point the finger where it deserves to be pointed and that is to the nations who enable Syria to do what they are doing.

But that doesn’t serve the intentions of the UN and so it chooses to do nothing with such inconvenient truths.

The UN and Facebook – Similar Models

This is why the UN reminds me of how more than 90% of people use Facebook.

There’s a lot of talk and idea exchange.

Heated words or words of praise flow freely between “friends”.

But in the end, little of any real value is accomplished.

This is Not a New Problem

Massacres in Syria have actually been going on for over 20 years and during that time, the UN has threatened to get really angry on different occasions.  Oooooo … sounds scary, doesn’t it? 

Not really.

When a UN envoy to Syria said the other day that it was time to have a “serious and frank discussion” with Syria, I would suggest that after 20 years of such suggestions, rebellious nations tend to ignore what you’re saying.

Now to be fair, Russia is not the only powerhouse supplying weapons to the world.  Our side has had its fair share of gun running also.  Only the occasional story actually makes it to the press (remember the Iran-Contra affair?).  For those interested in the subject, I recommend the thought provoking movie “Lord of War”.

Everything Is With Purpose

Everything happens for a reason. 

Russia provides arms to Syria for more reasons than just making money.

The UN doesn’t slap Russia for reasons of its own.

The US doesn’t squeeze the UN to slap Russia for its own reasons.

And as long as we are not privy to the myriad of reasons (or excuses) and we don’t care to demand accountability from people who in essence work for us, we will appear to be content with getting really angry in the media while the UN continues to issue strong words of condemnation.

Having done so, we will congratulate ourselves that we stood up for the rights of the downtrodden.

Meanwhile, the people who will pay the price will be like those who were slaughtered in Houla.

It’s because of events like this that I am reminded that while I’m very good with corporate diplomacy, I would make a lousy international diplomat.

The transparency and accountability that I would demand from all members of the UN would not only be unwelcome, it would be considered in the way of achieving the real agendas at play.

These agendas, sadly, make the massacre in Syria only the tip of the iceberg.

Massacres that will continue unless we do something more than just tell all our friends on Facebook how angry we are.

Maybe if we were holding our father, mother, sister, brother, son or daughter who had just been killed, then we might do more than express indignation or strong words of condemnation.


In service and servanthood,


PS For an interesting insider view of the UN, I recommend “Tower of Babble: How the United Nations Has Fueled Global Chaos” by Dore Gold.

Addendum – May 31, 2012

In a move that demonstrates that the UN’s motives are truly difficult to understand and in the midst of the Syrian disaster, the UN announced this week that Robert Mugabe, the president of Zimbabwe and with a number of UN sanctions against him, has been honored by being invited to join the “Global Leaders for Tourism” group.

A man who has been accused of human right violations, corruption and brutal repression has been appointed as a “leader” by the UN.

It shouldn’t make sense.  But since everything happens for a reason, it does make sense to someone.

I wonder who that “someone” is.

Addendum – August 3, 2012

This demonstrates what I mean when I express concern over how the UN executes when it comes to Syria.  Months after I wrote this blog, the UN continues to meet to issue words of condemnation.  What a waste of time and lives.


  1. I agree that expressing indignation on Facebook doesn't accomplish anything, but the problem is that most people (including myself) don't know what we can do. You see the lack of accountability of our leaders and the leaders of other countries, along with the ineffectiveness of the UN and you feel angry and powerless.

  2. You feel powerless because you believe somewhere inside that you work for them (making them your superior).

    Reversing that mindset is an important step to asserting yourself and demanding accountability from those that report to you.

    1. I think the problem is that they don't believe that, and their guns are bigger.