Abdul Razzak Alkanjo
Future Builders (Bona’at al Mostakbal) Magazine
Issue # 7
After the Six-Day War that erupted between a number of Arab countries and Israel, the underlying reasons of animosity between the fighting parties persisted in a way that could re-ignite the confrontation any moment, even though the war itself ceased without very noticeable effort. The military battles broke up as a result of international interventions on one hand and because each side on the other hand realized and grew convinced that bringing the war to an end was their utmost strategic option.
But those motives to cease fighting were not going to break the hostility as they never lead to any actual truce guaranteed by active international players. And due to such a situation, which embarrassed Egypt’s military and political leadership in front of its own people on one hand and shook its image in the eyes of the Arab public on the other, the leadership, who found it hard to submit, resorted to an alternative timid path of a silent war, later defined as:
The War of Attrition.
In wars of attrition, the main goal is to gradually demolish the enemy’s strengths and potentials until they get weak. This requires the country entering such a war to be powerful and comprehensively armed, relying on the nation’s capabilities to show political, economic and military steadfastness and endurance for the longest period of time and to also be in full control of the situation, maneuvering it between fluctuating states of interim peace and total war, and to finally do well in controlling all the diverse stages as they shift from military escalation at one time to pacification in another.
It is no secret that gains from attrition are proportionate to the opponent’s expenses and responses, and is primarily aimed to distract the opponent’s attention in several directions leaving it in a perpetual state of confusion. All this accumulates towards a constant pursuance of destroying its defenses and inflicting maximum losses in human-casualties and equipment as well as harming the infrastructure through intermittent time intervals.
The Syrian citizens could never have imagined that they’re going to be in the middle of such an internal war of attrition, still not very clear to them how they were pushed into it, considering that over three years ago they were demonstrating peacefully, chanting for freedom, dignity, equality and rule of law.
Following the clashes and confrontations met by State Security violence, and armed forces later on, citizens found themselves drowning in a pool of blood, not knowing, in most cases, who is fighting them and who is driving them to carry weapons against their fellow citizens with no valid reasons. All of which later led them to deaths, dislocation, displacement and destruction of homes by bombardment and warplanes.
The Syrian society’s cohesion and solidarity, of which we used to be proud, disintegrated into fighting factions and stinking sects full of hatred and contempt, based on selfishness and a policy of excluding others. It was not long before they found who would agitate the flames of hatred between them and dig deep inside the history of the conflicts they already overlooked hundreds of years ago.
Since day one, “foreign parties” raced to agitate the Kurdish situation, pushing Kurds to demand self-governance or something like a semi-autonomous region off the Syrian State motherland. Similarly, other minority groups and ethnicities, which have always coexisted together without conflicts, found someone to instigate them and get on their nerves.
At this point we spotted a lot of – lurking and supportive – foreign parties stepping in only to feed sectarian, ethnic and religious agitations. And it can’t be denied that they’ve largely succeeded in affecting, weakening and creating a rift between various components of the Syrian society.
It won’t go unnoticed that those sly third parties were waylaying and monitoring the new situation. They awaited the perfect opportunity to take advantage until they managed to exploit the pacifist popular movement in order to deceive and mislead it into settling their outstanding malicious accounts. Their objective was to bury the popular revolution in its infancy under a disguise of support and financing, while working -behind closed doors- on feeding its infighting and subdivision.
On the other hand, certain countries took full control of the Syrian government decision, directed the regime, and drove it towards resisting the popular movement with all sorts of weapons, in addition to supporting it on international stage, symbolized by the immoral Russian [and Chinese*] veto against any UN resolution or international condemnation.
Particularly after the rise in high ranking defections within the regime, be it by military or civilian officials, some Arab and foreign states found a very simple way-out by attempting to contain the dissidents or highjack and drive their independent national decision. This would be in exchange of providing them with limited support they were in desperate need of; obviously because they did not possess any other financial resource to support their stance. Consequently, those States raced to enforce their various agendas and ideologies, most of which were in direct contradiction with the goals of the revolution.
On the other hand, Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, as well as other powers working behind the scenes, found that their opportunity, to achieve regional give-and-take and global bargaining that would settle their postponed issues, has finally come. They used Syria as a political playground at the expense of Syrian citizens’ blood and destruction of their homeland.
When the number of martyrs exceeds 150,000 from all sectors of society, and the number of victims surpasses 200,000 between detained or missing, then comes the fundamental question:… Why? And for whom?
The major catastrophe was not only the number of victims, but our fear from being dragged into a long-lasting unjustifiable civil war that we could never have anticipated.
Three years passed while children and students remain out of school following the destruction of more than 3000 of them. As a result, more than two million children under the age of 15 were left on the streets without education, or in [refugee] camps or countries of displacement and diaspora; not to mention the fact of converting 900 schools into shelters for the aggrieved who lost their homes after being burned or demolished.
University students are not in a very different situation. Attending classes regularly and sitting an exam became almost impossible with the closures of roads connecting cities and the proliferation of regime’s armed roadblocks targeting the wanted and those evading military conscription. In addition to that, there is a need to avoid checkpoints erected by brigades and opposition factions or those of “foreign allegiance and vague authorities”.
That results in the discontinuation and attrition of education while school and university students grow older…Can you imagine a human being that only adds years to his life but at the same time stops learning??
The catastrophe on the economic and industrial level is greater than that on the educational one, especially after shutting down or destroying most of the public and private sectors’ factories and workshops, transferring plenty of them towards neighboring countries, or looting their equipment.
By that we ought to convert from being producers of the majority of our living necessities, foods and pharmaceuticals into importers. And in most cases, the quality of the imports is not up to the initial specifications in terms of validity and nutritional safety because they bypass quality control and authentic testing accredited in countries of origin, especially after land borders, airports and seaports went out of service. An ordinary citizen might spend most of the day searching for vital commodities only to pay huge sums of money overpriced by greedy war merchants. The poorest and low-income earners are usually the primary victims. Moreover, the depreciation of the Syrian pound down to one fourth of its purchasing power in the previous period, with no changes whatsoever to salaries and wages, has only exacerbated the harsh daily economic burden of living.
The Syrian economy losses have mounted to greater than those of “World War II”.
Prices climbed up to 250% and unemployment exceeded 50% while poverty rate increased to 40%. In a recent economic study it was found “that we need eight years to compensate for each and every year of the Syrian crisis”.
Memory is still teemed with cultural events that have once distinguished Syria and attracted Arab and foreign visitors to touristic and cultural festivals in Palmyra, Busra Al-Sham and the evenings of Aleppo Citadel… or in Syria’s costal region as well as other touristic and cultural activities that went on all year. Symposiums, intellectual festivals, book fairs and assorted publication houses. But now, on the contrary, citizens become imprisoned in their own houses, amid a power-loss darkness that denies them light, television, means of social communication and other services. They became even deprived of landlines and mobile coverage across most regions.
The consequences affecting the healthcare sector were even worse. We’ve lost more than ten thousand medics, and the majority of hospitals and medical clinics are no longer operational as a result of physical destruction or staff exodus, fleeing or death. In addition to all that comes the scarcity of medical, pharmaceutical and first aid products.
Shelling of civilian neighborhoods and places of worship, schools and other public and private facilities never stopped, not for a single day. Military jets were also present day and night.
All that contributed to the destruction of the infrastructure and crippling of services in most areas, leading to vast spread of epidemics and diseases in exchange of drastic decline in providing medical and city services. How many years would we need for reconstruction after this deadly war stops?
We lost more than 5,200 of our engineers, who are, as we all know, the first pillar of reconstruction and rebuilding.
The weapon we use now to fight each other is the very same weapon that was once prepared to defend the Syrian homeland, and which was bought from the sweat and savings of Syrian citizens and from the taxes imposed on them for years and years; all at the expense of austerity and squeezed living standards. Regrettably, we used this weapon for the wrong purpose.
The chemical weapon was gratuitously handed over by the regime in exchange for some conventions and concessions between “foreign powers”. We have, by our own doing, drained all our economic, military and human resources without any sort of premeditated will or national resolution.
And we must now concede that:
We fell into a villainous trap that dragged us all down – knowingly or unknowingly- into the catastrophic situation that we’ve reached and started experiencing the agony within it.
And despite our belated awakening, we’re still contending as stubbornly as we could.
It may be hard for us now to admit that the conflict did drain our entire economic powers and human resources, and that our national unity got worn out and punctured, and that the spilled blood of our youths has flown like rivers. All that while the patriotic conscious minds, on which we pin our hopes to provide solutions, remain locked.
* Note added by the Free Syrian Translators