The Syria problem has me deeply troubled. Assad’s crackdown on protests has gone beyond what Gaddafi did before NATO got involved, but — as I stated in a previous post — the two situations are significantly different, and unfortunately I do not hold much hope that Syrians can topple Assad. NATO will not get involved, especially not until Syrians manage to form their own rebel military force that has a legitimate shot at taking down Assad, and even then I doubt they will. I keep reading articles about how Libya should be a lesson for Syrians, urging Syrians to continue the protests, but these articles seem to overlook the differences between the two rebellions. While Syria’s demonstrations show true courage, they have failed to make any progress in taking down Assad. Assad has promised reforms, but Syrians do not take his word for it, and I would not either. I want to see the Syrian people successful with their desire to overthrow Assad, but they will have to do it on their own, and they face an uphill battle to do so.
Truthfully, while the U.S. would not admit it and has called for Assad to step down, the U.S. probably fears a revolution in Syria, especially a violent one. Syria, in the heart of the Middle East, shares borders with two countries vital to American interests: Iraq and Israel. Israel is obviously the U.S.’s biggest ally in the region, perhaps to a fault even, while the U.S. is enjoying relative stability in occupied Iraq after years of trying to end a Civil War and a scramble for power, which the U.S. caused. Who would have thought five years ago that in 2011 the Iraqi government would seem to be one of the more stable governments in the Middle East? It is somewhat surprising that the “Arab Spring” has not impacted Iraq more. But a revolution in Syria could dramatically alter Iraq because the U.S. has no idea what would replace the Syrian government, and some Syrians — who, perhaps as much as anyone, are taught that the U.S. is evil — certainly resent the American occupation in its neighbor to the east. A violent revolution in Syria would cause a scramble for power and a free for all on weapons, and one has to assume that some of those weapons would make it into Iraq and used against the U.S. there and used against Israel to Syria’s southwest. There was little concern that a revolution in Libya would destabilize its neighbors since two of its neighbors, Egypt and Tunisia, are both going through their own revolutions. The U.S. has to hope that if a revolution in Syria occurs, it happens more like it did in Egypt than Libya — for Assad to step down, hand power over to the military, and have the government implement gradual reforms.
Indeed, the future of Syria lays in the hands of its military; it was the military in Egypt that refused to slaughter citizens and then turned on Mubarak, and much of the military in Libya defected and joined the rebel side, which led to the Civil War. Syria’s military has not seen large defections yet and they have cooperated with Assad. The Syrian military must realize that its role is to protect the Syrian people and not to act as the personal thugs to protect Assad from the Syrian people. Disturbing images, videos, and stories of Assad’s thugs committing atrocities against civilians continue to pour out of Syria, and the Syrian people continue to courageously protest, but the only way things will change is if the Syrian military finally decides it has had enough of murdering innocent people and turns on Assad. Even then, it may lead to more violence because Iran wants to protect Assad and may use military force to do so. There is no easy way to get rid of Assad.
Good luck, people of Syria. I applaud your courage, and the military cannot kill all of you. Eventually it has to turn on Assad, but you likely face a long, bloody, uphill battle before reaching your goal of toppling your murderous dictator.