Humanitarian Intervention in Syria: A Critical Analysis

Published date01 January 2024
AuthorRamakrushna Pradhan,Anantagopal Sing
Date01 January 2024
Subject MatterResearch Articles
International Studies
61(1) 73 –91, 2024
© 2024 Jawaharlal Nehru University
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/00208817241228385
Research Article
Humanitarian Intervention
in Syria: A Critical
Ramakrushna Pradhan1,3 and Anantagopal Sing2,4
In academic and intellectual circles, Humanitarian Intervention (HI) and the duty
to protect have historically been seen as morally and ethically right because of
its contentious practices have been at the forefront of international relations
discourse in recent years. Having failed to come up with a consensus set of
rules, parameters and principles to justify intervention, the Just War logic of
Humanitarian Intervention falls flat on the face of the sovereign rights of the
states. In this milieu, this article critically examines the rationale of humanitarian
intervention in Syria and evaluates the concept of just war to claim that it is
outdated and its application in the name of humanitarian intervention needs to
be assessed. This study adopts the theory of social constructivism to decode the
liberal perspective of Humanitarian Invention as a just war or socially constructed
to manipulate world public opinion and address the inherent national interests of
involved countries or the diplomatic failure of the United Nations Organization.
Humanitarian Intervention, responsibility to protect, Syria, United Nations, Just
War and social constructivism
The ongoing Syrian crisis is undoubtedly one of the greatest human disasters of
world history, which according to the UN report has pushed Syria back to 40 years
(2013). It has not only destroyed human capital, health and infrastructure but also
displaced millions of people, and pushed them to live in abject poverty. This crisis
which started with pro-democracy demonstrations in the country’s southern city
1Department of Political Science, Fakir Mohan University, Balasore, Odisha, India
2Centre for Security Studies, School of National Security Studies, Central University of Gujarat,
Gandhinagar, Gujarat, India
Corresponding author:
Ramakrushna Pradhan, Department of Political Science, School of Social Science, Guru Ghasidas
Vishwavidyalaya (A Central University), Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, 495009, India.
3Current Affiliation: Department of Political Science, School of Social Science, Guru Ghasidas
Vishwavidyalaya (A Central University), Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, India
4Current Affiliation: Department of Political Science, Barbil College, Barbil, Odisha, India
74 International Studies 61(1)
of Daraa, demanding the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad was instigated
by outside forces that led to the indiscriminate use of military force which
consequently resulted in the Syrian war between the Assad regime and different
military groups that include Kurdish, Jihadists, FSA rebels. Furthermore, a major
contributing factor to the conflict’s escalation was the involvement of outside
forces in starting the Syrian Civil War. To illustrate, Shia-majority countries of the
region like Iran, Iraq and Lebanon have extended their active support to the
al-Assad regime of Syria. In fact, Shia terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and
others have been fighting on the side of the Assad regime. However, the Sunni-
majority nations in the area, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, rejected
al-Assad and provided backing to the violent groups who fought him. Importantly,
extra-regional powers like Russia and the US also have directly taken part in the
Syrian war. Russia has openly supported the al-Assad regime while the US
strongly opposed the al-Assad regime and provided active support to the militant
organizations fighting against al-Assad. Even Lebanon and Iran extended their
military support to the Assad government whereas Israel, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi
Arabia have supported the militants fighting against the al-Assad government
(Aljazeera, 2018). The Syrian government and opposition forces engaged in a
civil war as a result, with the goal of controlling as much Syrian territory as
possible. This unprecedented involvement of outside powers is believed to have
escalated the Syrian crisis further. For instance, Russia, which has military bases
in Syria, backs President Assad. Iran has also come to the rescue of the Assad
regime because of religious brotherhood. Interestingly, countries like Turkey,
Saudi Arabia and Israel have extended their support to various anti-regime groups
only to counter Iranian influence. The US involvement is for democracy and
against Russian involvement in the war. The UK, France other European powers
are opposing al-Assad only because America opposes him. Therefore, the Syrian
civil war is different from other wars and cannot be projected as a just war from
the outset as the US claims. It is different in the sense that a peaceful pro-
democracy protest against high unemployment, corruption and lack of political
freedom under the Assad government 10 years back has resulted in a full-scale
war with the involvement of regional and international actors including foreign
terrorist groups. The war at the outset may have germinated from domestic issues
but what seems to be at the heart of the war is the relentless struggle for power
between the US and Russia and the regional countries like Iran, Iraq and Lebanon
on the one hand, and Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Israel on the other as stated
above. Therefore, this study applies the theory of social constructivism to
understand the intentions of the powers involved and their inherent interests in the
humanitarian intervention in Syria.
Setting the Milieu: Humanitarian Intervention
The usage of the term ‘Humanitarian Intervention’ (HI) is rooted in natural law.
Hugo Grotius the ‘father of international law’ is known to have applied laws
naturally to regulate international relations. Subsequently, to promote international

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