The following is a piece I wrote last August. In the intervening months the slaughter has been hugely scaled up, an armed resistance to the Assad regime has developed and the Arab League has made admirable, if toothless gestures of disapproval of the regime’s atrocities. At this point I would advocate more than just diplomatic support for the SNC and the FSA, but in August I would have been thrilled with the former.
One of the many hashtags that has been popular among followers of and participants in the Arab Spring on Twitter is #SyriaBleeds. Anyone who doubts this claim is either dishonest or ignorant, as ample evidence of it exists on Youtube and elsewhere. This hashtag represents part one of my thesis. The scale and the intensity of the butchery that has been going on in Syria for some months now are appalling and force any morally normal person observing events there to realize that the regime of Bashar Al Assad is profoundly evil. I urge any readers who have not done so to watch the videos on Youtube that document the Assad regime’s hideous crimes. The field is strong, but its hard to outdo the video of the body of 13 year old Hamza al Katib, which was returned to his family by the security forces after it had been tortured almost beyond recognition. In light of that video and others documenting unspeakable atrocities against children, there is not much that this regime or any other can do that would be surprising.
The second part of my thesis is equally appalling. Very often in foreign policy, states are forced to chose between doing something that is probably moral and looking after their own Realpolitik interests. This is not the situation that confronts the United States today with regard to Syria. Syria represents the sort of allignment of a strategic opportunity and an absolute moral imperative that is hard to come by in international relations. America’s strategic interest in overthrowing the Assad regime should be glaringly obvious to anyone who follows the politics of the region. The current gang of child murderers in charge of Syria are the second of the three pillars of the Iranian “resistance bloc” to the American backed regional order. Bashar Assad is arguably Iran’s closest and most important Arab ally (they do have others). Iran is the Shia power in the region and is bitterly opposed to a Sunni dominated, U.S. backed status quo. What’s more, Syria itself is not a majority Shia country. It is instead, overwhelmingly Sunni. The strategic advantage that would accrue to the United States as a result of the overthrow of the Assad regime would be game changing in the region. Rather than a powerful and ascendant Iran, throwing its weight around, U.S. hegemony in the gulf would be assured for the forseeable future.
In spite of these twin unimpeachable facts (and to my own disgust and embarrassment) the Obama administration has taken a line that can be generously described as “cautious” on Syria. In fairness, the administration’s policy has been getting slowly better, but it still isn’t where it ought to be. The idea that we should be engaging militarily in Libya (an action I support) where we have very few real national interests, but not leading the way on Syria is a bad joke. Leaving any moral argument to one side, the U.S. should be the loudest cheerleader of them all for the overthrow of Assad strictly because of the regional power dynamics I outlined above. If competent, realist foreign policy isn’t your thing, you can turn to the moral argument, which is just as strong. Basic solidarity with one’s fellow human beings (the absence of which is the definition of a sociopath) is one reason for this. The other is our love of freedom. No morally normal person and freedom-loving person can possibly remain neutral in a struggle of this kind.
Moreover, the Obama administration ought to be doing every single thing in its power to help the Syrian people (actually intervening militarliy ourselves is probably neither feasible nor advisable). The best hope for a free Syria would appear to be Turkish intervention at this point. The Turks share America’s strategic interest in bringing Iran down a peg or two. They also share a border with Syria and would prefer to not have to deal with 10 million refugees. Finally, the Turks also have a military that is more than capable of giving Assad the beating he so richly deserves. In recent days the Turks have been making encouragingly threatening noises toward Assad. An Ottoman intervention is what I am fervently hoping for and it is what we are all obligated to try, in however small a way, to bring about.
Source: Levant Wire
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