This Similarly, the same Syrian regime who was supported

essay aims to delineate and elucidate the Syrian conflict through the theories
of constructivism and realism. Particular attention will be paid to the origin
of the Syrian Civil War, along with the major actors involved in this regional,
and now international, conflict.


“The people want
to topple the regime” was the anti- government graffiti on the wall of a local
school in Daraa city painted by a group of Syrian children on March 2011. Those
children were arrested and tortured by the local security authorities (Diehl,
2012: 7). This act eventually led to an anti- governmental uprising due to the
outrageous reaction of community over children’s mistreatment after
incarceration by the local security authorities. The uprising demanded release
of children, justice, freedom as well as equality for all people. At the core,
these peaceful demonstrations were considered to be against the sectarian and family
dictatorship because the political power was mainly held by the Alawite elite
(Diehl, 2012). In response to these demonstrations, the Syrian government
planned to enforce security forces for the protestors to suppress them. The
deadly aggression used by the government to oppose dissent led to protests
across the country calling for the president to resign. Violence soon escalated
as the government battled hundreds of rebel brigades. This rebellion further
turned into a full- fledged civil war between the Free Syrian army and the Syrian
regime (Thompson, 2016). The main allegation that the Syrian regime associated
with the protestors was that they were Islamic Al- Qaeda’s extremist terrorist
gangs who were supported and funded by the various countries such as Turkey,
Qatar, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia as well as the United States of America
which they try to seek peace with Israel (Sommier, 2014). Similarly, the same
Syrian regime who was supported by Russia, China and Iran, was present in the
front fire line with Israel (Fisher, 2012). Since then, the regional and
international intervention has proven to be a key factor in the power struggle
as the government and opposition have received financial, political and
military support. This has directly intensified the fighting and allowed it to
continue; Syria is effectively being used as a proxy battlefield (Wimmen and
Asseburg, 2012).

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death toll as recorded and presented by the Syrian Centre for Policy Research
approximately totalled at 470,000 as a result of on- going conflict till
February 2016. Due to the intensification and spread of fighting, a dire
humanitarian crisis was evident since 4.8 million people tried to take refugee
abroad and 6.1 million people were internally displaced as per the records of
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. It has also been
reported by the Syrian Network for Human Rights that since 2011, more than
117,000 people have been either disappeared or detained by the governmental
forces. In the detention, ill- treatment and torture are two rampant things
that have resulted in the death of thousands of people. Additionally, the
Islamic State (ISIS) made more complications by the widespread and systematic
violations. This was through targeting civilians with artillery, kidnappings,
torture, executions and using children as soldiers (Human Rights Watch, 2016).


One of the biggest
challenges that the international relations could face was about how
substantial issues could be understood in the globalized world. Steve Smith in
his book ‘International Relations
Theories’ examines the concept of international relations by deep research
and fascinating drawing of the international relations. Smith illustrated that
the “theories are like different coloured lenses: if you put one of them in
front of your eyes, you will see things differently” (Smith, Kurki and Dunne,
2016: 11). Based on this, there are various currents within the international
relations theories, with each a different point of view on the Syrian conflict.
Realism approaches a dissimilar perspective than constructivism do.


Realism uses an
explanatory, as opposed to a normative, approach to examining International
Relations. Three core assumptions are made: (1) states are the key players in
the international field, also known as “statism” (Dunne and Schmidt, 2017:
109); (2) states function as isolated, rational actors that are moved by their
self-interests and egoism that they need to fulfil (Ikenberry and Parsi, 2009);
(3) the international system is an anarchic one and it does not have an
overarching authority (Mearsheimer, 2001: 30). Hence, assure their survival and
security through their own material capabilities and self-assist (Waltz, 1979:
213). These assumptions lead realism to assume, at a core level, a pessimistic
outlook wary of constant threat and danger. State actors are thought to be
driven by motivations to survive and dominate, aiming to gain favourable
positions of power and reduce the potential for their demise (Gellman, 1988).
The competition and insecurity inherent within the anarchic system will compel
states consciously to adopt a balancing response when confronted with other
actors’ sudden concentrations of power. Therefore, they will either develop
their own material resources (internal balancing) or combine their material resources
with other states’ (external balancing). This provides evidence that, for realism,
alliances are not motivated by shared ideas and values, but through national
self-interest (Morgenthau, 1948).


In realism, it
should be noted that the states are not equal and are placed in a hierarchical
order as per their power. In an anarchical system, the only way to defend and
survive is to use the military power (Slaughter, 2011). Some of the egoistic
passions are given primary emphasis by the realists, especially that the
presence of political action with an evil in it as mentioned by Donnelly in 2000
“the tragic presence of evil in all political action” (Morgenthau, 1946: 203).
This outlook necessitates that politics is viewed as a struggle for power with
the where “shadow of war” is something that is considered to be an ever-
present (Aron, 1970: 36); mainly due to the irreconcilable aspirations of the
states (Carr, 1946). According to this, every state would try to obtain as much
power as possible. But in case there is an imbalance of power, the likelihood
of war becomes high primarily because the stronger state may attack the weaker
state without sanction or any loss of itself. However, this idea about power
and equipoise not only encompasses the military power, but also encompasses the
economic power. This means that states whose economies are growing are also
gaining more power. Therefore, attention of realists is focused on the economy
of a state as it is related to its power (Mearsheimer, 2016). Moreover,
realists consider that the non-governmental organizations do not possess the
military power required to compete with states in the international system.
This means that the role played by United Nations is limited (Dunne and
Schmidt, 2017: 106), as the main actors (states) in international relations are
not worried about absolute gains, but rather with obtaining further benefits
and relatively higher gains than the others involved.


Considering all of
the above, strategies like mutual mistrust, selfishness, power-seeking,
recklessness as well as survival-securing are considered to be capable for
producing anarchical structures amongst polities along with security dilemmas,
international self-help systems, violence, ever-present threats of war, and
unrestricted politics of national interests.