What To Do About Syria

Syrian RevolutionWhen the Arab Spring began in late 2010, many assumed it would be a quick, drastic change to the Middle East. For most countries, it was. The Tunisian, Libyan, and Egyptian governments capitulated, some with far more resistance than others. Other governmental reforms were put into action in several other countries. All together, it has been a graphic reminder of what people do after decades of oppression.

Most of the press surrounding these events has died down, but one significant area remains embroiled in conflict with no end in sight: Syria. Syria isn’t known for much, except being a place of historically bad governance and continual collusion with anti-western regimes. There is a distinct lack of good traits in this country, other than being the site of some fairly historic cities. Its civil war has been brutal and chaotic. Almost 100,000 people have been killed, and any attempt to bring peace to the country has failed.

Unsurprisingly, many international efforts have been made to somehow help the problem. Initially, the Red Cross sent help to Syrian rebels, and this spurred on much activity from other international organizations.  More recently, the United States and other Western countries have taken up the banner of the insurgents, most importantly with John McCain visiting one of the revolutionary commanders last week in Syria. He concluded that it was time to start giving them heavy weapons and to overthrow the Assad government.

This is extremely altruistic, and somehow stirs up images of thousands of poor, oppressed citizens (with the help of rich benefactors) rising up to cast off the manacles of tyranny and usher in a new golden age of freedom and peace. In addition, isn’t this reflective of America’s own history, when the French gave the destitute Continental Army desperately needed supplies and men? Therefore, the natural response seems to be one of overflowing generosity in the spirit of the ever increasing spread of democracy and liberty across the globe.

It would seem that McCain and other governmental officials have been watching too much Les Miserables and not reading enough modern history. Countries that have had their governments toppled due to the Arab Spring have invariably installed more restrictive, Islamist regimes in place of their preceding secular institutions. The situation in Syria is no different, with the cause for which the rebels yearn being the establishing of an Islamic state in the place of the Assads.

Clearly, the current government in Syria isn’t exactly the model of Athenian democracy, but that by no means justifies the aims of those who oppose it. Are the Assads evil? Yes. Are the rebels any better? Well, it depends on which ones are being discussed, but it would seem that the answer would generally be “no”. Does this change the fact that the Syrian Civil War is tragic and in need of remedy? No, it does not.

However, the United States government is in no position to act in this area, as neither side really promotes American values and frankly, the US can’t afford it at this point. Therefore, the best option to ease the dreadful current events in Syria would be to promote private support of the Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations while watching for a viable rebel movement to emerge that truly is non-oppressive and seeks nothing but liberty and stability in the country.


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