Special to The Globe and Mail
Published Monday, Jul. 23 2012, 2:00 AM EDT
Last updated Monday, Jul. 23 2012, 12:00 AM EDT
Realpolitik is liberating Syria from the Assad autocracy, while the institution-based international system – most notably the United Nations – has largely failed, because it depends on agreement among the permanent members of the Security Council.
Moscow seems implacably committed to supporting the Damascus regime. Such is the Russians’ commitment to their traditional activist role that they are underwriting their Syrian ally at great cost to their own reputation as a constructive institution-based player, rendering impotent the mechanisms so ably used in Libya.
Even if the Russians were acting otherwise, it remains dubious how effective UN and North Atlantic Treaty Organization intervention could be. A no-fly zone would have limited impact, since Syria possesses an impressive array of military hardware. A severe sanctions regime, even banks running out of money, might have less impact than thought. Sanctions would be ignored by Russia, China, Iran and others. NATO boots on the ground would be a disaster, embedding outside players in a complex world where denominational identity trumps international standards of right and wrong. Indeed, the regime continues to draw on significant public support, despite falling morale over the setbacks of recent days.