By Sharmine Narwani
“The weapons of choice in (today’s) new conflicts are not big-ticket items like long-range missiles, tanks, and fighter planes, but small and frighteningly accessible weapons ranging from handguns, carbines, and assault rifles on up to machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, and shoulder-fired missiles,” explained William Hartung more than a decade ago in an article entitled The New Business of War.
“Because they are cheap, accessible, durable, and lightweight, small arms have been a primary factor in the transformation of warfare from a series of relatively well- defined battles between ‘two opposing forces wearing uniforms’ to a much more volatile, anarchic form of violence,” says Hartung, now director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy in Washington DC. “More often than not, today’s wars are multisided affairs in which militias, gangs, and self-anointed “rebels” engage in campaigns of calculated terror, civilian targets are fair game, and the laws of war are routinely ignored.”
“The ready availability of small arms makes these conflicts far more likely to occur, far more deadly once they start, and far more difficult to resolve once the death tolls mount and the urge for revenge takes hold.”
Hartung could have been describing Syria today. And no – the anarchic, violent rebels he describes in his article do not appear everywhere else in the world except in Syria. They are the Syrian prototype.
Tens of thousands of Syrians killed, millions displaced as a result of violence in their direct environment. Would these figures be so wretched if there were no armed rebellion? Most certainly, no.
Since early 2012, the Syrian death toll has increased at least tenfold – from around 6,000 to 60,000 – as rebel supply lines opened up, borders became more porous and the militarization of the conflict was accepted in the mainstream. (more…)