Sunday, 24 April 2016

Syria — Is there anything left to salvage?

Since 2011 economists have been adding up the accumulating costs of the ongoing war in Syria. Year after year they have been recording the numbers that have come to point directly to the impending demise of the Syrian economy and studying what seems now an imaginable way to recovery. The latest estimate revealed by the World Bank predicts that $180 billion is needed to rebuild a war ravaged Syria. Another study by World Vision and Frontier Economics estimates that the war is costing Syria $4 billion a month in lost growth. The war has seen Syrian schools, hospitals and major infrastructure turned into rubble and with only 43% of the medical facilities functional the estimated life expectancy at birth has dropped to 15 years. World Vision is warning that without an internationally agreed reconstruction strategy ready to be implemented when the war is over, Syria’s fate would be no different than that of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Planning, reconstructing and rebuilding are all words that bring forth a ray of hope in an otherwise grim reality, a reality whose facts show that this hope is far-fetched. After the fall of Gaddafi’s Libya the United Kingdom alone has spent 13 times more on bombing than rebuilding the country. The United States Department of Defense boasts a daily cost of $11.5 million spent on bombing Iraq and in 2009 was spending about $7 billion a month in Afghanistan. Considering that history shows us time and again dark precedents we are almost promised a battered Syria that will not recover for at least another 50 years. The problem with history is that it tends to repeat itself and if mankind fails to learn from it then one after the other every Arab country is destined to perish.

Brick and mortar can be calculated, measured and rebuilt but what of lives lost? What of a nation of nomads that are roaming the world begging to be sheltered? What of the psychological damage that has befallen them as a result of this senseless chaos?

The cost of war is like an immeasurable tremor that knows no borders, its shockwaves reverberating across the world resulting in universal suffering.

Analysts have said the devastation caused by the Syrian war has reached World War II levels. With that in mind and the fact that there are mini wars happening in almost every other Arab country, that was unfortunate enough to be seduced by a false spring, this region is in fact going through the world’s third war. Once the dust settled on the Second World War much of Europe and Asia lay in ruins, there was nothing left to rebuild and the year 1945 was dubbed “Year Zero”. Millions dead and millions more had fled their homes seeing the birth of a new term, the DP, or “displaced person.” In modern day terms it would be what is known to us as the “refugee.” Once again history shows us that while the terminology changes the vicious cycle of war is more or less the same.

The end of the Second World War saw great cities such as Warsaw, Tokyo and Berlin reduced to piles of ash and in our reality the great cities of Baghdad, Tripoli and Aleppo have succumbed to the same fate. The end also brought about the creation of new world superpowers, the once mighty Japan and Germany looked to be beyond recovery which left ample room for the United States and the Soviet Union to flex their political muscles. The war in Syria has resulted in an undeniable power shift in the Arab world as well where we witness the weakening of Iraq, Libya and Syria to have made room for other less geographically dominant countries to take the helm.

Nevertheless, what was once Europe’s dark reality of defeating Adolf Hitler was now well behind it, recovery was possible for them because they bound together forming a grand alliance that had one thing on its agenda, the resuscitation of Europe, all of Europe. If Syria is to rise from the ashes it needs a united Arab world which has one thing on its agenda, not the falling of a dictator for we have seen many of those fall, but the reemergence of a prosperous Arab nation, one that is not reliant on foreign aid but is self-sustained and set on its way to become powerful once again.

Let us assume that this hypothetical situation is not a mirage and that its existence is well within reach, the question remains, what would our history books teach? Will the truths be taught so that our future generations could learn from our past or will it be ignored, skipped over to better times just like post World War II Europe did, where Italy neglected to mention its fascist past and France’s history pages were freed from the pro-Nazi Vichy period?
History is not always pessimistic for if World War II Europe has taught us anything it is that the rebuilding of cities is possible and the mending of a nation’s spirit can be achieved and therefore we remain hopeful that the new Arab powers will strive to sift through the ashes and salvage what they can to bring back what was lost and breathe life into what we thought dead.

This article was first published in The Gulf Today on 24 April, 2016  http://bit.ly/1SEPRXM
Article also appeared in Arabic in Al Khaleej Newspaper http://bit.ly/24cArf7

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