Archived Story

World must solve Syrian puzzle

Published 9:58am Friday, September 6, 2013

While critics abound, American foreign policy in the Middle East is little more than it can be, but a good deal more than it should be.

In the broader window into Middle East unrest lies the complexity of a world made smaller by the cell phone, where unrest cannot be hidden by oppressive governments and where revolution foments in text messages and Twitter and Facebook accounts.

But revolution remains in most cases little more than a pathway to political chaos, where the righteous anger of oppressed citizens seems only to lead to both the demise of corrupt despots and the void of the kind of political understanding required to successfully govern.

Additionally, the factor of religion in social and political settings, as opposed to secular government, has tended to contribute to the inability to identify choices for leaders best able to serve multiple interests of the population.

The examples of Libya and Egypt point to the outcomes that could be expected should the Syrian rebels depose the Assad regime. In both nations the idea of a liberal democracy finds itself in unbreechable conflict with education, religion, and trust.

It is into this expanding shift from oppression to disorder that the United States has been expected to provide some sense of organizing order in the region and in specific states. While there is no path to control the revolutions of change and no practical means to avoid civilian casualties in the wake of such change, the U.S., as the sole Superpower, is somehow looked to calm the violence and provide the direction to new forms of governing.

But the model of democracy, at least where limited by religious intrusion and educational fracture, has not proven particularly useful in restoring order or reason in the region.

So the role of the U.S. has been, so far at least, its ability to source power where it is deemed appropriate to tilt the scale for an outcome that, at best, remains unclear and dangerous for the people living in revolution.

In Syria there is serious concern that the fall of the Assad regime, if occurring suddenly, might open the country to a degree of chaos that has no path to an end beyond fractured regionalism and religious division.

Therefore, any U.S. military intervention may both provoke unanticipated consequences and offer extremely limited support for the people of Syria who are under horrific attack by their own government.

The arguments for intervention have been that our national interest are at stake and the nations of the world have condemned the use of chemical weapons now killing innocents in Syria.

The national interest argument is more about our commitment to the protection of Israel and our insistence to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon than about an imposing threat to our country directly.

The moral argument, that the use of chemical horror is beyond the scope of acceptance, is one that should bear response not only by the U.S. but by the Arab nations and all nations who sign the treaties against the use of such weapons.

Yet those who should commit their own forces stand silently aside waiting for the U.S. to act while condemning the U.S. for acting or for not acting.

As long as the United States accepts the role of advancer of democracy and protector of the moral high ground, our nation will be on call for any crisis that occurs anywhere on the planet.

But is perpetual war really the only path forward?

Perhaps so if you think the military industrial complex makes sense for the nation.

But wars kill innocents more than combatants and our contributions have included arming so many who kill their people and then using our weapons to extend the fighting while more innocents die.

Maybe it is time to seek to have Assad declared a war criminal and to invoke the nations nearer Syria to fight to end the killing of mothers and wives and children.


Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.





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