“We the peoples of Rojava: Syria’s Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians, Turkmen and Armenians, Chechens, Circassians, Muslims and Christians and Yezidis and various others, our communities are aware that the nation-state, which has brought the problems and crises of acute and tragedies of our people…relate to the country from the rubble and tear in the social fabric…therefore, we find that the democratic federal system is the best system to address the historical, social and national issues in the Western Kurdistan, Beth Nahrin, and Syria, which ensures the participation of all individuals and groups on an equal footing in the discussion and decision, implementation, and taking into account the different ethnic and religious according to the characteristics of each organized group on the basis of coexistence and brotherhood peoples, and equality of all peoples in rights and duties, and the foundation on a geographical concept and the decentralization of political and administrative within a unified Syria, and respect for human rights charters and the preservation of civil and global peace…”
- The Preamble of the Rojava Constitution
Founded on the principles of Democratic Confederalism: socialism, gender equality and sustainability, Rojava (Northern Syria, or Syrian Kurdistan) is a de facto autonomous region in Syria and, in my opinion, the one light of promise in the Syrian Civil War. Whilst I am diametrically opposed to socialism, the issues of the Middle East are incomparable to those of the Western World and democracy must always be considered as massively superior to illiberal society from anybody on the libertarian side of the political spectrum. It is my belief that the principles of Rojava offer the chance to turn Syria into a beacon of democracy and an example to their neighbours, as well as making it stable for many years to come.
Estimated to consist of up to 5 million citizens, Rojava is perhaps the only positive impact of the Arab Spring of 2011. Defended by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) which mainly consists of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), it has survived the conflicts of recent years and in 2014 elections were held and the constitution, which states Rojava to be an ‘integral part of Syria’, is not opposed and fought by the state of Syria. However, Rojava is not officially regarded as an autonomous state, but despite their ongoing struggles in creating a successful state, it has succeeded monumentally. Focusing on ISIL, the SDF has driven them away from areas such as Al Hawl, Shaddadi, Tishrin Dam and Manbi. In addition to its battles against ISIL, it has had to resist opposition from multiple other terrorist organisations such as Al-Qaeda, as well as Turkey and the rebel groups which it backed.
The region has received support from the United States, albeit at a limited level. On the one hand, America has assisted with air support and praised the state as a ‘multi-cultural, multi-party, multi-ethnic, multi-sectarian Syrian region being liberated from ISIS.’ On the other hand, they have refused to recognise it as a ‘Kurdish state’ or explicitly support its autonomy. Receiving backing from the United Nations in addition to the European Union and its member states, Rojava has support from across the Western World. Fascinatingly, its biggest supporter is Russia, who were the only country to call for its inclusion into Geneva peace talks, eventually carrying the position of Rojava in the talks.
This universal support offers an incredible opportunity that has been vastly underrepresented. Backed strongly by even Russia, Rojava can serve as a prompt for the spread of two extremely important things: democracy in Syria (and by extension its neighbours), needed to effectively fight against the existential threat posed by ISIL, and cooperation between all Western countries, which includes Russia, also necessary to fight against the threat of ISIL without increasing the confusing disaster plagued by those caught up in war.
In order to take advantage of this opportunity, Rojava must be treated as a genuine and autonomous state, and therefore included in future peace talks. Those who argue for non-interventionism, especially in the case of the United States, ignore the essential role the country has (and does) play as a protector of democracy and, as a classical liberal, the values which I hold dear. This is, of course, as a direct results of failures of past interventionism, but their failures should not mean the absence of the United States as a military superpower, as the role would instead be held to those who we are thoroughly opposed to on an ideological standpoint: Russia and China. The failure of neoconservatism is the lack of respect for democracy and as mentioned, cooperation, in resolving crises that hurt our national interests.
Intervention, if focused on fighting the greatest threat we face of Islamic terrorism, will serve as a much-needed tool towards fixing the toxic climate in foreign affairs by joining those who are opposed to it together. War should be seen as a last resort, and to those who disagree, that is the general consensus – for a reason. War never goes as well as planned and it is often those who start it who lose it, so on a pragmatic (and moral) level, it should never be seen as anything close to being desirable. Diplomacy is always superior, and should always be pursued. When a country refuses to converse with their adversaries, war should be seen as a legitimate response.
In the case of Bashar al-Assad, despite his disgustingly illiberal and reactionary leadership, he is willing to engage in diplomacy, and if we merely resorted to war and regime change at this point, we would be responding in the same fashion we have in other recent conflicts. It is my hope that Trump’s foreign policy will be aggressive yet measured, and that he will not be close to being as quick as his predecessors in resorting to war. For that reason, I support his response to the reported chemical attacks, as it was more of a warning than an act of war, as Russia were warned of the impending air strikes, resulting in no deaths. Assad should become an important ally of the Western World, as improved diplomatic relations will allow greater control of his actions. Most importantly, intervention should always occur with a plan of what will happen after war. Equally improved relations with Rojava will allow a future after Assad, whose current term as president ends in 2021. In return for our full support, a plan should be designed to replace his regime with a NATO-SDF coalition that will remain in place for many years, founded on a (truly) democratic multi-party state and a modified Rojava constitution. If executed correctly, Syria could be the success story that the world is in deep need of.