The time for meaningful intervention in Syria has passed. The two and a half years that have transpired since the popular uprising against dictator Bashar Al-Assad have played witness to a brutal civil war. The Assad regime has held on against the rebels and is now holding the upper hand, thanks to help from Russia and Iran. The rebels have fought tirelessly to defeat Assad, with support in arms and aid coming from various countries, including America.
In January of this year, I drove down the Damascus Highway in Lebanon towards Syria. I found myself amidst Syrian refugee camps. They were a heartbreaking sight. Hovels held together with rope, children running around playing football in the cold mud and adults congregated around fires burning in old oil drums. Almost two million people have been displaced due to the civil war and many are now forgetting their former life. Young children are forgetting how to read and write. Their situation has been bleak for over two years, not to mention their futures.
Now, the most debated topic around the world is whether or not intervention is required in Syria to punish Assad for his alleged use of chemical weapons. The UK, in a spectacular show of the democratic process, voted against intervention. France, under President Hollande, has committed to being involved in the intervention. In America, President Obama has called on Congress to vote on the issue with the results of their deliberations either leading to intervention or not.
The intervention that Obama has suggested would consist of limited strikes on the military holdings of Assad. This is meant neither to force him out of power nor completely destroy him. This intervention is a slap on the wrist for breaking international law and allegedly using chemical weapons.
The United Nations have sent investigators to Syria to determine whether or not chemical weapons were used, and that’s all. They are not there to assign culpability to either Assad or the rebels. This will not provide the hard evidence that many in the international community require. Should the case be brought before the UN Security Council, it will simply be vetoed by Russia and no further action will occur. But we all know that’s not true.
Even if Russia uses its power to veto, the United States and their allies will break international law and take the role of punisher into their own hands. They will attack Assad and criticize Russia for their use of the veto, despite their long list of vetoes when it comes to protecting Israeli interests. They will do all of this because of their so-called moral obligation.
I ask, where was the moral obligation two and a half years ago? 100,000 Syrians died prior to these latest allegations of chemical weapons being used. Why was there no moral obligation before this? Why are the ways in which we kill each other the determining factor in stopping massacres? Is it not as heart wrenching and devastating to a family to lose a loved one to a bullet as a chemical? I presume that morality has little to do with this intervention.
Many have said, why would America get involved in Syria if not for moral reasons? There is no oil to speak of there, so they have no real interests. I would refute that with the commitment that America has to Israel. Since the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria, gas masks have sold out across Israel. There is a definite threat to Israel should America pursue a military option against Assad.
So for this thought experiment, let’s imagine that America does attack Syria. Limited strikes hit military holdings across the country and Assad is temporarily weakened. He has already stated that he will retaliate should Syria be attacked by America. How will this retaliation take form? Perhaps it will be through the funding of terrorism against Western countries. Or more likely, it will result in a chemical attack on Israel. However, should Assad pursue this option he would need allies in the region. Thankfully for him, he has Hezbollah, which is funded and supported by Iran. So then Iran is now involved in the conflict. Spillover into Lebanon intensifies as Hezbollah comes under attack in their home country. And there you have it; a war with Iran has been started under the guise of moral obligation that America has to the Syrian people. It is no secret that American military hawks have been pushing for a war with Iran for some time now. So that would leave the region with a new war and America embroiled in a new conflict, one that will require a heavy commitment to their main ally in the Middle East.
Now, that only covers what will happen to Assad if he survives the intervention. Should the intervention succeed in overthrowing Assad, the heavily fractured opposition that America is supporting will devolve into inner fighting, somewhat like what we are witnessing in Egypt. Except in Syria, they have been fighting a civil war for the last two and a half years and have all the weapons and hopeless people to keep violence at a peak. One of the factions fighting against Assad is Al Qaeda, the very group who claimed responsibility for the attacks on New York City in 2001. So with the help of the American government, they will move into the contest for control of Syria, making it a hotbed for terrorist cells for the foreseeable future.
So, in my estimation, intervention will either start the path to war with Iran or create a lawless terrorist hotbed Syria. Assad has been horrible, ruthless and inexcusable in his crackdown on the rebels. However, the rebels have been equally ruthless. Who is best qualified to govern the future Syria? Past foreign policy was able to contain Assad. Friends of mine were able to travel through Syria, remarking on its beauty and friendliness during his rule. What would an Al Qaeda governed Syria look like?
The time for intervention is gone, the window of opportunity missed. The reality is that the Syrian civil war has progressed to a point where no intervention can bring about meaningful results; just plunge the Middle East into further chaos. Intervention at this point is reckless and hypocritical. Breaking international law to uphold international law is no justification. Neither is moral obligation after 100,000 Syrians have already been killed.
I remember meeting a young Syrian man in a hookah bar in Jordan earlier this year. He had left Syria when the fighting broke out to make money to send back to his family. He spoke about the hardship of leaving his home and yet he held onto hope. He told me he was planning on returning in a few weeks, when the fighting calmed down and the rebels emerged victorious. The home he wanted to return to is gone, just like the opportunity for meaningful intervention.