I am fed up of reading about Syria and seeing people citing 'ancient hatreds' as an explanation for the violence and as an excuse for not intervening.
People used to say this about Bosnia. They said the conflict started there (20 years ago this month) because of ancient ethnic animosity. In other words it didn't matter what happened - the region was always destined for war because it was what had always happened.
I'd just like to say what total and utter bollocks. Seriously. If you choose to use that argument then the world is doomed. Lets have a little look at Europe. Hmm, no ancient hatreds there. We've never slaughtered the Scots/Welsh/Irish/French/insert European country here. No, it has all been peaches and cream.
But most of all it is utterly disrespectful to the Syrians/Bosnians. It makes them out to be unlike us, not developed, unable to curb their primative instincts to violence. It doesn't understand that these countries are full of people who live together, laugh together, drink together. They get married and have children. They work together, do deals together, play chess together. They have their differences, but they aren't cause for war.
War is caused by present inequality, driven by individuals who are able to spin the perception that whole groups of people are being victimised (and therefore need a strong man to protect their interests). The International Community can be guilty of buying into this ancient ethnic hatred notion because it means that they don't have to get involved. They can take the humanitarian instinct, shrug and say 'nothing we can do that will make any difference'.
The argument was not true in Bosnia 20 years ago - and it is untrue in Syria now.