The Syrian Slide

What to do about Syria?  Around Washington, that is the seemingly most urgent question.  Should the US stand back and provide only humanitarian aid, or should we take a more active role?  And, although this is not being asked openly, which side should the US support?

A “red line” has been drawn around the Syrian Government’s potential use of chemical WMD.  The President has said if Syria used them against their own people that would change the calculus.  Hmmm.

So now there are reports of chemical weapons being used.  What is the proper response for the US?

Fortunately, the Obama Administration is not being stampeded.  The evidence of chemical weapon use has been provided by the insurgents and not verified by independent sources.  But even if the reports are true, it is not known whether this was a Government approved action or the work of a “few bad apples”. (Heard that before?)  The US response would depend upon knowing this.

There must be a humanitarian aspect intermixed in the US decision.  Syrians are dying and there seems no pending end to the conflict.  Some argue that the West should intervene and at a minimum establish a “free zone” where insurgents could reside in some form of safety.  Hmmm.

Here are the two most likely bad options.

  1. The US could support the insurgents and tip the balance of power.  An insurgent government would come into power, draw up a constitution, and most likely fall into the Muslim Sharia Law orbit.  Most likely too would be the dominance of Sunnis and a real bad time for Alawites and all non-Sunnis. (Look at Iraq today where Shiites hold the power.)   We should expect nothing that much different from what has transpired in Egypt or Libya.
  2. The US could support the Syrian Government (read Bashar al Assad) and make the bet that predictability and stability are the best both the Syrians and the rest of the world could hope for at this time.  Killings would continue but soon would be replaced by a Syria-wide police State.  Doesn’t sound like democracy but the killings would fall dramatically.

Americans’ gut reaction is to help the insurgents against a despotic regime.  It just feels like the right thing to do.  Unfortunately that option, to be successful, presupposes an insurgent government that thinks like the US founding fathers.  Not going to happen.

So let’s take a deep breath.

“We the People…” when applied to the broad area from Tunisia to Afghanistan is composed of relatively poor people saddled with a religion whose tenets make little or no sense in the modern world as we know it.  The utter absurdity of Sunni killing Shiite or vice versa says it all.  Pile on the preference for religious law above secular law, the clownish treatment of women in public in contrast to their “sex slave” status in the home indicates also that these people are not ready for anything that we recognize as democratic.

And the most important point, it is neither our duty, or our right to tell anyone what their religion should be or should advocate.  That is their choice as it is our choice to live as we do.


This suggests that a cold war foreign policy of “containment” might be the best policy for the West.  Let’s let these Muslim countries work things out their way.  Contain their life styles to the greater Middle East and their foreign policies and behavior, especially countries like Iran to other Muslim countries.

Maybe in another 500 years, these countries could rejoin the rest of the world.


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