Thisessay aims to delineate and elucidate the Syrian conflict through the theoriesof constructivism and realism. Particular attention will be paid to the originof the Syrian Civil War, along with the major actors involved in this regional,and now international, conflict. “The people wantto topple the regime” was the anti- government graffiti on the wall of a localschool in Daraa city painted by a group of Syrian children on March 2011. Thosechildren were arrested and tortured by the local security authorities (Diehl,2012: 7).
This act eventually led to an anti- governmental uprising due to theoutrageous reaction of community over children’s mistreatment afterincarceration by the local security authorities. The uprising demanded releaseof children, justice, freedom as well as equality for all people. At the core,these peaceful demonstrations were considered to be against the sectarian and familydictatorship because the political power was mainly held by the Alawite elite(Diehl, 2012). In response to these demonstrations, the Syrian governmentplanned to enforce security forces for the protestors to suppress them.
Thedeadly aggression used by the government to oppose dissent led to protestsacross the country calling for the president to resign. Violence soon escalatedas the government battled hundreds of rebel brigades. This rebellion furtherturned into a full- fledged civil war between the Free Syrian army and the Syrianregime (Thompson, 2016). The main allegation that the Syrian regime associatedwith the protestors was that they were Islamic Al- Qaeda’s extremist terroristgangs 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 Americawhich they try to seek peace with Israel (Sommier, 2014). Similarly, the sameSyrian regime who was supported by Russia, China and Iran, was present in thefront fire line with Israel (Fisher, 2012).
Since then, the regional andinternational intervention has proven to be a key factor in the power struggleas the government and opposition have received financial, political andmilitary support. This has directly intensified the fighting and allowed it tocontinue; Syria is effectively being used as a proxy battlefield (Wimmen andAsseburg, 2012). Thedeath toll as recorded and presented by the Syrian Centre for Policy Researchapproximately totalled at 470,000 as a result of on- going conflict tillFebruary 2016. Due to the intensification and spread of fighting, a direhumanitarian crisis was evident since 4.
8 million people tried to take refugeeabroad and 6.1 million people were internally displaced as per the records ofUN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. It has also beenreported by the Syrian Network for Human Rights that since 2011, more than117,000 people have been either disappeared or detained by the governmentalforces. In the detention, ill- treatment and torture are two rampant thingsthat have resulted in the death of thousands of people.
Additionally, theIslamic State (ISIS) made more complications by the widespread and systematicviolations. This was through targeting civilians with artillery, kidnappings,torture, executions and using children as soldiers (Human Rights Watch, 2016). One of the biggestchallenges that the international relations could face was about howsubstantial issues could be understood in the globalized world. Steve Smith inhis book ‘International RelationsTheories’ examines the concept of international relations by deep researchand fascinating drawing of the international relations. Smith illustrated thatthe “theories are like different coloured lenses: if you put one of them infront of your eyes, you will see things differently” (Smith, Kurki and Dunne,2016: 11).
Based on this, there are various currents within the internationalrelations theories, with each a different point of view on the Syrian conflict.Realism approaches a dissimilar perspective than constructivism do. Realism uses anexplanatory, as opposed to a normative, approach to examining InternationalRelations.
Three core assumptions are made: (1) states are the key players inthe international field, also known as “statism” (Dunne and Schmidt, 2017:109); (2) states function as isolated, rational actors that are moved by theirself-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 anoverarching authority (Mearsheimer, 2001: 30). Hence, assure their survival andsecurity through their own material capabilities and self-assist (Waltz, 1979:213). These assumptions lead realism to assume, at a core level, a pessimisticoutlook wary of constant threat and danger. State actors are thought to bedriven by motivations to survive and dominate, aiming to gain favourablepositions of power and reduce the potential for their demise (Gellman, 1988).The competition and insecurity inherent within the anarchic system will compelstates consciously to adopt a balancing response when confronted with otheractors’ sudden concentrations of power. Therefore, they will either developtheir own material resources (internal balancing) or combine their material resourceswith other states’ (external balancing). This provides evidence that, for realism,alliances are not motivated by shared ideas and values, but through nationalself-interest (Morgenthau, 1948). In realism, itshould be noted that the states are not equal and are placed in a hierarchicalorder as per their power.
In an anarchical system, the only way to defend andsurvive is to use the military power (Slaughter, 2011). Some of the egoisticpassions are given primary emphasis by the realists, especially that thepresence 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 withthe where “shadow of war” is something that is considered to be an ever-present (Aron, 1970: 36); mainly due to the irreconcilable aspirations of thestates (Carr, 1946). According to this, every state would try to obtain as muchpower as possible. But in case there is an imbalance of power, the likelihoodof war becomes high primarily because the stronger state may attack the weakerstate without sanction or any loss of itself. However, this idea about powerand equipoise not only encompasses the military power, but also encompasses theeconomic power. This means that states whose economies are growing are alsogaining more power. Therefore, attention of realists is focused on the economyof a state as it is related to its power (Mearsheimer, 2016).
Moreover,realists consider that the non-governmental organizations do not possess themilitary power required to compete with states in the international system.This means that the role played by United Nations is limited (Dunne andSchmidt, 2017: 106), as the main actors (states) in international relations arenot worried about absolute gains, but rather with obtaining further benefitsand relatively higher gains than the others involved. Considering all ofthe above, strategies like mutual mistrust, selfishness, power-seeking,recklessness as well as survival-securing are considered to be capable forproducing anarchical structures amongst polities along with security dilemmas,international self-help systems, violence, ever-present threats of war, andunrestricted politics of national interests.