“The people want to topple the regime” was the anti- government graffiti painted by a group of Syrian children in the Daraa city in March 2011. These 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. This gave rise to the tensions dramatically and tensions spread in the entire country. 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 by which they try to seek peace with Israel (Sommier, 2014). Similarly, the same Syrian regime was present in the front line with Israel who was supported by Russia, Iran as well as China (?) (Fisher, 2012). Ever since this happened, the situation and complexity of the war has been deepened with different actors entering from international, regional or Syrian side and due to which Syria was turned into a proxy battlefield (Wimmen and Asseburg, 2012)
The 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 refuge 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 has also resulted in the death of thousands of people in detention. In addition to all the crisis events going on, ISIS (Islamic State) made more complications by the widespread and systematic violations. This was achieved by ISIS through targeting civilians with artillery, kidnappings, executions, using children as soldiers, and torture (Human Rights Watch, 2016).
One of the biggest challenges that the international relations could face was about how globalized world issues (?) could be helped. With the help of deep research and fascinating drawing of the international relations, the concept has been explored in the book of International Relations Theories (Where is ‘ with the name of the book??) by Steve Smith (Smith, Kurki and Dunne, 2016: 11) Why you delete the original statement here?. Based on this, there are various currents that can be evident in the international relations theories with particular focus on the Syrian conflict. Constructivism and realism are two entirely different things are they take up different approaches.
Compared to a normative approach, realism takes up an explanatory approach for the study of international relations. Realism is based on the following 3 core competencies:
1. States are owned by egoism and self- interests and are the unitary and rational actors
2. States are considered to be the central actors of international arena WHY you delete “statism”? (Dunne and Schmidt, 2017: 109)
3. Anarchy is visible at the international system (Ikenberry and Parsi, 2009)
Anarchy can be described as a system that comprises of various independent states who do not have any particular authority over them (Mearsheimer, 2001: 30). This ultimately guarantees survival as well as security through material capabilities and self- help (Waltz, 1979: 213)
A pessimistic outlook of persistent danger and threat is possessed by the realists, based on which it mentioned that all the state actors are driven by the requirement of greater power and dominance for reducing the elimination of actor’s potential and creation a balance of power (Gellman, 1988). Within an anarchic system, the type of competition and insecurity inherent, such type of concentrations automatically adopt to the balancing responses by either by internal balancing where material capabilities are made up or through external balancing where capabilities are aggregated. This provides evidence that alliances are not so much appreciated in terms of realism and shared ideas and values, however, it does through raison d’etat and self- interests (Morgenthau, 1948).
In realism, it should be noted that the states are not equal and are placed in a hierarchical order as per the amount of power they have. 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 (Morgenthau, 1946: 203). Due to this condition, politics turn into such a struggle where shadow of war WHERE IS “?? is something that is considered to be 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 any loss to itself. This idea about power not only encompasses around the military power, rather it also encompasses around the economic power. This means that states whose economies are growing help the states to gain more power; this is because power in the international system is demonstrated through economic strength. Therefore, attention of realists is focused on economy of a state as it is related to its power (Mearsheimer, 2016).
As per the realists, who consider that non- governmental organizations lack military power, they are not able to compete with the international systems. This means that the role played by United Nations is limited (Dunne and Schmidt, 2017: 106). This is deemed important because the main actors in international relations are worried about gaining higher benefits than the others have gained.
Strategies like mutual mistrust, selfishness, power- seeking, recklessness as well as survival securing are considered to be capable for producing structures like security dilemmas, international self- help systems, political communities, unrestricted politics of national interests, permanent potentiality of war and violence and many others.
The above discussed theoretical formulation of realism can also be applied to the conflict of Syria being studied in this paper. This conflict of Syria can be regarded as a struggle of gaining power among foreign actors or states who contrasted in their interests but were involved in the conflict. For example, Russia, China, United States of America, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and others who approached Syrian war, all of them had their personal benefits as well as predicted results in mind to achieve.
The power of United States of America in the international system was tried to be restricted by the support of al- Assad government by China, Russia and Iran with the militia- cum- party of Hezbollah. This was achieved through formation of alliance with Syria as well as vetoing interference by United Nations Security Council. This helped them to restrict the US from gaining any sort of advantage over North Africa or Middle East (Yan, 2013).
Ever since the conflict started in Syria, Assad was supported by Russia by all means including in terms of weapons, technical advisors as well as by sending military advisors. Eventually in 2015, September 15, a direct military intervention was opted by Russia despite the fact that it aimed to fight ISIS but it was mainly meant to target opponents of Assad (Spaulding, 2015). Since the cold war ended, Russia’s identity as one of the world powers has greatly reduced and as per the framework of zero- sum competition for power provided by Dunne and Schmidt (Dunne and Schmidt, 2017: 110), the only way out for Russia is to avoid definite exclusion from the area while balancing Washington’s sway as well. Moscow’s projection of power in the Eastern Mediterranean was also dependent upon the survival of Assad so that the power could be specifically projects to geopolitical ambitions and interests of Russia (Litsas, 2017). This further poses a big question about whether Russia can be sure about its position and safety of its economic interests or not (Freedman, 2010).
On the other hand and on an equal basis, there was a breeze of uneasiness in between American government and Iran because the American government was able to make an influence in the region and in return was upsetting the regional power as mentioned in Sick et al. (2008: 1) WHY you change the reference and put the name of the writer out??? WHERE IS the original statement (“it is clear that Iran is now a centrepiece of American Policy” (Sick et al., 2008: 1)?????? that Iran was the centrepiece of attraction for the American policy. Due to this, Iranians took greater defensive measures as they continued to internally balance and build their nuclear capabilities. Considering the military standing between Syria and Iran that is only meant to secure the borders and state to balance the potential threats that may arise from turkey, Israel, American ally of the Sunni Gulf States and others (Laub, 2017). Iran is still considered to have a stronger strategic position due to the fact that Syria would be at their hands with loyalty of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Palestine at one site. This is also one of the justifications that has been used by Iran to support its involvement in ideological motive because Allah has ordered all Muslims to defend ad protect each other from all sort of outside threats, as per Imam Khomeini. This is another reason with which Iran supports it view of protecting and supporting Palestinians, because they are not recognized by the West and are repressed by the Israel (Segall, 2012).
State sovereignty in china is a very sacred principle and based on this, people of China are against the excessive interference and arbitration from outside. With the help of its veto power, China has blocked all sort of interventions from the United States of America as well as the West. The main aim identified behind such acts or interventions by China was that the intervening body wants to alter incumbent regime so that its national interest could be satisfied. Basically, China does not have any sort of humanitarian interest in Syria but it does matter to China if there are any new legal establishments; thus, all these efforts from Chinese side are to prevent establishment of the same as well as various procedural precedents for military interventions (Swaine, 2012: 9).
Conversely, the power vacuum and room for action created by the war in Syria I exploited due to the support given to anti- Assad forces by Washington to expand influence of America as well as strengthen its regional allies. This support further helped to eliminate traditional rivalry and its influence with Tehran and Moscow (Abdo, 2011). The perspective of United Sates of America is the sponsor of terrorism especially because it has supported Hezbollah as well as Palestine for so many years. One more fear that distresses United States of America is the amount of mass destruction weapons in possession of Iran and Assad regime for regional security (Sharp and Blanchard, 2013).
The conflict in syria (Is Syrian with small s?) can be regarded as a struggle with reference to Saudi Arabia as one for gaining influence and power over other kinds of regions between Iran, fiercest enemies of area as well as the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The existing balance of power could immediately be upset if Assad is overthrown in perspective of Saudis and will also lead to the formation of a new one based on the Saudi monarchy vis-à-vis Iran (Cockburn, 2016).
The role played by the Turkish in the Syrian conflict, as considered by the realist considerations, also take notice of the power struggle. This the reason why it air struck for th intervention with allegiance with anti- ISIS in July 2015 (Yeginsu, 2015). For example, if the power of Russia and Iran are projected to the doorsteps, the main driver can be referred as a part of Turkish national interest though which possible revival of Kurdisan worker’s party (PKK) and Syrian Kurds may gain power and revive, however they may a direct threat to power instability and popularity of AK (?idi?, 2017). In addition to this, Ankara is interested in ensuring Syria’s new government is established soon enough because on the other hand ???, the Sunni Islamist movement in Syria would help in consolidating the power and nfluence of Justice and Development Party government (Barkey, 2012).
Concluding with reference to the information presented here, it can be said that Realism is a very useful theory regardless of any kind of disputes that helps in intervention of external states in scenario of Syrians. Referring to the struggle of power, only a single sided account of the conflict can be viewed, due to the fact about ineligibility of realism to answer satisfactorily because peaceful protests were converted into a civil war and the brutality of Assad grew. All these questions can be further explained with the help of another international relations theory that identifies importance of immaterial elements, which remain unidentified by realism. This theory is known as constructivism.
The second international relation theory emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s due to the thinkers like Friedrich Kratochwilas, Nicholas Onuf, Alexander Wendt who openly challenged rationalism and positivism of realism (Steele, 2017). This international theory of constructivism normatively aims to explain the conception of human thinking as well as helps in understanding the significance of society’s actions through extrapolating its meaning (Alder, 1997). Emphasis that has been laid upon non- material factors like beliefs, ideas, rules, values and norms as well as the core assumptions like the holism, idealism and identity are the elements that define this theory (Barnett, 2017: 147). These elements are specifically used to define and explain how the states develop their interests and why such a behaviour is preferred over others. Based on this international relations theory, interests of the states are considered to be endogenous, inclined towards changing social interactions, constructed rapidly and continuously through the same social interactions throughout the history and geographical context (Wendt, 1992: 397).
Along with this, the international structure of constructivism helps in identifying factor such as, norms, rules as well laws (Viotot (Why you change the name?) and Kauppi, 2010: 277). Constructivism is instructed through beliefs and ideas that are known to set out the norms. By sharing the understanding of these norms and factors, the international society is given its meaning. Dependent variable associated with constructivism includes the set of norms present in the international system that can be changed through the same beliefs and ideas (Jackson and Sørensen, 2007).
States, non- state actors and individuals are all agents that interact in the social, historical and cultural context. This context is referred as the structure where the relationship among structure and agents is of co- constitution. Based on the actions of agents in the structure, interests as well as identities of the agents are defined (Reus-Smit and Snidal, 2008). Once these identities and interests of the agents and their actions are constructed, it formulates the international politics which results in a continuous procedure of social interaction. “World of our making” is a famous statement of Nicholas Onuf which corresponds to the fact that nothing is given from us objectively but every time we interact, there is something new that is built (Onuf, 1989: 341).
As mentioned by Alexander Wendt, “anarchy is what states make of it” (Wendt, 1992: 395) actually means that the anarchic nature of the international system is not something that automatically leads to conflict, as mentioned by the realists; rather it is the expectations and meanings being associated with others while we interact with them. Each of the actor in interacting basically constructs two sub parts, self and other; these can be referred as an enemy, rival as well as a friend (Wendt, 1992: 404). Based on the social identity developed, all the agents may develop a specific behaviour that may even include alliance to war. Alliances may be formed in between states in anarchy where they may refer each other as friends due to the shared ideas and values; since in case of considering the other person as an enemy, there would be possibilities of war. On the contrary, the model presented by Wendt for international politics can be described in another sense as well. It may mean that it is a politics of power and conflict that is driven by self- interested and exclusive rational calculations and is a politics of ideology, identity and social construction.
A continuum of anarchies is possible as argued by Hopf, a constructivist, who visualizes anarchy as an imagined community (Hopf, 1998: 174). Based on this concept, constructivists disregard the notion presented by realists about power politics and self- help being the necessary components of anarchy. Instead, they are referred as the institutions effecting the procedure over the structure of international relations (Wendt, 1992). Constructivists, in light of this, also emphasize that state survival is not something that should include conflict or use of force (Weber, 2014).
Constructivists can be viewed as optimistic in their outlook while distinguishing the processes and structure of international politics, which is viewed as static by realists. Realists also view war as a result of chaos; and war and balance of power as inevitable results of system. But the same is nullified by constructivists because conflicts and all such issues may be overcome with the help of reconstructing identities and interests after careful observation. Regardless of the fact that anarchy does exist in the international system, its effects are largely dependent upon inter- subjective meanings attached with it.
Irrespective of all these differences between realism and constructivism, there are a few similarities too. For example, as per Weber (2014: 264), both theories are able to recognize states as fundamental actors in international politics. This similarity refer to the fact that constructed relationships among states greatly affects the procedure and structure of the system. Another similarity is of commitment of explaining and making the world understand about epistemology indebted to positivism (Fierke, 2016: 167).
Constructivism and realism approaches a same situation in a different manner. For example, constructivism does not accept the idea of a given world and states that it is not objectively verifiable, while realism identifies the behavioural patterns that are objectively observable (Reus-Smit and Snidal, 2008). Along with this, constructivism demands role of ideas in the world politics should be taken seriously while realism disregards this totally.
With all this analysis, it is easy to apply the concepts/ theories to Syrian conflict. Considering the fact that brought the people on streets for peaceful demonstration due to political inclusion and democracy, they were aware of the new collective national identity of ‘self’ that would be irreconcilable with oppressive identity of ‘other’. The main aim of these demonstrations was to alter the domestic structure of power at the hands of Assad as well as others who were close to him. While being confronted with a structure that was changed and the people were influenced by new ideas, a self- identity was built by Assad through which a legitimate ruler may be determined to stay in power or not while considering the threats from terrorists, dissidents, as well as enemies of the state. This new development is what led Assad to respond harshly to the protestors on streets; which resulted in further complications.
The development of new structure also forced the protestors to construct subnational identities so that they can face the growing internal chaos. At the beginning, the identities that Syrian people had developed, they had to leave those identities because they became sectarian with respect to the ethnic and religious lines as well as due to the increased fragmentation of Syrian opposition they used to explain. The faction of anti- Assad was not based on united people rather it was based on group of people who either called themselves as Islamist, Sunni, and Kurdish and the others were regarded as Kafir, Alawiite, or the Arabic who are the enemy. Due to the same new identities that were developed, these groups often stood against each other and a new era of inter- subjective relationships, which led to the collapse of structure into the civil war and segregated into Sunni- Shia, Arab- Kurd and Secular- Islamist cleavages. This led Assad to construct and promote a self- image and self- identity of elected presidency, of the regional champion of Arab as well as the Shia identity who resisted the opposition from extremist Islamists, terrorists and the Sunni radical groups.
Summing up all the contradicting ideas, mutual perception and identities of constructivism are considered to be its tools that helped in explaining the Syrian civil war between various kinds of opposition groups and Assad; but constructivism may provide a different interpretation of intervention from external states.
Turkey and Saudi Arabia’s contraposition on one side with Assad, Iran and Hezbollah on the other side can be described as a Sunni- Shia confrontation as per constructivism. The historical evidences of such conflicts can be identified in the differing perceptions of Islam’s religious sub- identities. Same goes for Russia, who alongside China maintains a self- constructed identity of world power, and United States of America, which perceives itself as a peace, liberalism and democracy defender, whose contraposition can be relied upon ideologies and history. Utilization of veto power provides an affirmation about Russia’s principles and identity as well as its intervention (Averre and Davies, 2015).
Concluding the key aspects, Syrian conflict is double sided; for example it is a civil war that was fought between Syrian opposition and Assad and it was an international war too that was fought between external states. Here, realism has been utilized for explaining international dimensions of war and about the material interests due to which intervention from actors such as Russia, Iran, United States of America, Turkey, China, and Saudi Arabia was observed. Constructivism helped in understanding how the ideology and identity influenced behaviour of each involved actor as well as how the war turned into an international event.
With the help of constructivism, an accurate and detailed account for war is provided compared to what realism has provided. This is because realism focused on social factors along with the importance of ideas that addressed the issues. Realism may be considered as overly simple for comparison, though it has a significant historical background in its favour and is considered to be a dominant theory of international relations. As per Barnett (1998), realism is unable to explain various significant features of region, which may include emphasizing on symbolism instead of military force, lack of military build- up or arms races and regional stability.
Lastly, it should be noted that the root of argument lies in the argument residing between constructivism and realism, which are the two most important international relations theories. Civil as well as international dimensions of the war can be explained with the help of realism and constructivism with specific relation to struggle of power and the centrality of identity. On one side, constructivism mentions conflict as a prevention strategy for creating a united Syrian identity while realism refers to it as a struggle to obtain power between different state actors. It can also be said that the Syrian conflict is too complex to be explained with the help of one theory since every theory has some kind of limitations leading to insufficient explanation of the conflict. Moreover, the analytical efforts should be promoted by the discipline, as their responsibility, particularly in terms of sui generis actors like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS); who can help politicians to comprehend the harshest of all wars.