Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Wait Out the War in Syria

August 21, 2012 2:28 pm 0 comments

Members of the Free Syrian Army. Photo: World Defence News.

Bashar al-Assad’s wretched presence in the Presidential Palace of Damascus may, contrary to Western assumptions, do more good than harm. His murderous, terroristic, and pro-Tehran regime is also non-ideological and relatively secular; it staves off anarchy, Islamist rule, genocide, and rogue control of Syria’s chemical weapons.

As Syria’s civil war intensifies, Western states are increasingly helping the rebels overthrow Assad and his henchmen. In doing so, the West hopes to save lives and facilitate a democratic transition. Many Western voices call for more than the non-lethal aid now being offered, wanting to arm the rebels, set up safe zones, and even join their war against the government.

Helping the rebels, however, neglects a fundamental question: does intervention in Syria against Assad promote our own interests? This obvious question gets missed because many Westerners feel so confident about their own well-being that they forget their security and instead focus on the concerns of those they perceive as weak and exploited, whether human (e.g., indigenous peoples or the poor) or animals (whales and snail darters). Westerners have developed sophisticated mechanisms to act on these concerns (e.g., responsibility to protect, animal rights activism).

For those of us not so confident, however, fending off threats to our security and our civilization remains a top priority. In this light, helping the rebels entails multiple drawbacks for the West.

First, the rebels are Islamist and intent to build an ideological government even more hostile to the West than Assad’s. Their breaking relations with Tehran will be balanced by their helping to forward the barbaric force of Islamism’s Sunni forces.

Second, the argument that Western intervention would reduce the Islamist thrust of the rebellion by replacing materiel pouring in from Sunni countries is risible. Syria’s rebels do not need Western help to bring down the regime (and wouldn’t be grateful for it if they did receive it, if Iraq is any guide). The Syrian conflict at base pits the country’s disenfranchised Sunni Arab 70-percent majority against Assad’s privileged Alawi 12-percent minority. Add the assistance of foreign Islamist volunteers as well as several Sunni states (Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar) and the Assad regime is doomed. Assad cannot subdue the ever-widening rebellion against his rule; indeed, the more his troops butcher and maim, the more defections occur and his support shrinks to its Alawi core.

Third, hastening the Assad regime’s collapse will not save lives. It will mark not the end of the conflict, but merely the close of its opening chapter with yet worse violence likely to follow. As Sunnis finally avenge their nearly fifty years of subjugation by Alawis, a victory by the rebels portends potential genocide. The Syrian conflict will likely get so extreme and violent that Westerners will be glad to have kept a distance from both sides.

Fourth, the continuing Syrian conflict offers benefits to the West. Several Sunni governments have noted the Obama administration’s reticence to act and have taken responsibility to wrest Syria from the Iranian orbit; this comes as a welcome development after their decades of accommodating the Shiite Islamic Republic. Also, as Sunni Islamists fight Shiite Islamists, both sides are weakened and their lethal rivalry lessens their capabilities to trouble the outside world. By inspiring restive minorities (Sunnis in Iran, Kurds and Shiites in Turkey), continued fighting in Syria could also weaken Islamist governments.

When the regime falls, the Alawi leadership, with or without Assad, might retreat to ancestral redoubts in Latakia province in northwestern Syria; the Iranians could well supply it by sea with money and arms, permitting it to hold out for years, further exacerbating the confrontation between Sunni and Shiite Islamists, further distracting them from assaulting others.

The one exception to the policy of non-intervention would be to secure Syria’s vast chemical weapon arsenal, both to prevent terrorist groups seizing it and Assad from deploying it in a Götterdämmerung scenario as he goes down, although this difficult mission could require as many as 60,000 foreign ground troops deployed to Syria.

Nothing in the constitutions of Western states requires them to get involved in every foreign conflict; sitting this one out will prove to be a smart move. In addition to the moral benefit of not being accountable for horrors yet to come, staying away permits the West eventually to help its only true friends in Syria, the country’s liberals.

Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum and a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution.

This post first appeared in The Washington Times.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Blogs Book Reviews Can ‘Islamic Reformation’ Work? (REVIEW)

    Can ‘Islamic Reformation’ Work? (REVIEW)

    It is cocktail hour on an April afternoon in 2004. The sun is hot on Amsterdam’s canals, and I am sitting at Café den Leeuw on the Herengracht with Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Hirsi Ali is still a member of the Dutch Parliament, and we talk about Islam. Specifically, we talk about the concept of “moderate Islam,” or what she calls “liberal Islam.” And she has one word for it. “It’s absurd,” she says. “It’s complete nonsense. There is no ‘liberal […]

    Read more →
  • Food Jewish Identity A Look at the Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook (REVIEW)

    A Look at the Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook (REVIEW)

    Everybody knows that cooking varies from country to country. There are Italian restaurants, Chinese restaurants, etc. We associate different styles of cuisine with different languages. Do we also think of the association of different cuisines with different dialects? We should, because cooking also varies from region to region. Litvaks and Galitsyaners have their own traditions of preparing gefilte fish. Marvin I. Herzog, in his book The Yiddish Language in Northern Poland: Its Geography and History (Indiana University, Bloomington, and Mouton & Co., The […]

    Read more →
  • Relationships US & Canada Analysis: Jewish Women Less Likely Than Catholics to Take Husband’s Name

    Analysis: Jewish Women Less Likely Than Catholics to Take Husband’s Name

    An analysis of New York Times wedding announcements showed that women married in Jewish ceremonies were less likely to take their husband’s last names than those married in Roman Catholic ceremonies, the Times reported on Saturday. The largest gap between the two groups was in 1995 when 66 percent of Catholic women took their husband’s names and 33 percent of Jewish women did the same. Nearly half of the women featured in the publication’s wedding pages since 1985 took their husband’s name after marriage, while about […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Jerry Lewis, Legendary Jewish Comic and Humanitarian, Stays Relevant at 89

    Jerry Lewis, Legendary Jewish Comic and Humanitarian, Stays Relevant at 89

    JNS.org – Through appreciation of both his comedy and humanitarian work, legendary Jewish entertainer Jerry Lewis is staying relevant at age 89. The only comic to ever be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, Lewis added another award to his trophy case in April, when he received the 2015 Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). Gordon Smith, NAB’s president and CEO, said the organization was “honored to recognize not only [Lewis’s] comedic innovation, but also his remarkable […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports Israeli Gymnasts Win Bronze, Silver Medals at 2015 European Games in Baku

    Israeli Gymnasts Win Bronze, Silver Medals at 2015 European Games in Baku

    Israeli athletes marked a successful day on Sunday, as gymnasts won multiple bronze and silver medals in the 2015 European Games in Baku. The Gymnastics team won two silver medals and one bronze in group events, while Neta Rivkin, an Israeli Olympic gymnast, won bronze for the Solo Hoops event. Sunday’s gymnastics wins follow Sergey Richter’s bronze on June 16 for the Men’s 10 meter air-rifle, and Ilana Kratysh’s silver for women’s freestyle wrestling. The 2015 European Games in Baku are […]

    Read more →
  • Theater Report Highlights Success of Russian-Jewish-American Ballroom Dancers

    Report Highlights Success of Russian-Jewish-American Ballroom Dancers

    Russian-American Jews are some of the most successful ballroom dancing competitors in the U.S., South Dakota Public Broadcasting (SDPB) Radio reported on Thursday. Jonathan Sarna, a professor of Jewish history at Brandeis University, said their success can be traced back to Jewish discrimination in the former Soviet Union. Because of the prejudice they faced, Russian Jews had to perform better than their peers in every field, including dancing, in order to have a chance of getting ahead. “They knew that if they […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Israeli Dancer With Shofar, Prayer Shawl Wows ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Judges (VIDEO)

    Israeli Dancer With Shofar, Prayer Shawl Wows ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Judges (VIDEO)

    An Israeli dancer made use of Jewish props in an extraordinary routine that left judges amazed when he auditioned for season 12 of TV dance competition So You Think You Can Dance on Monday. At first, the panel of judges appeared confused when Asaf Goren, 23, began his audition in Los Angeles with a tallit (prayer shawl) over his head and the blowing of a shofar, which he explained “opens the sky” for people’s prayers. However, as soon as he started his “Hebrew breaking” performance, […]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Jewish Hoops Fairytale Falls Short as David Blatt’s Cavaliers Drop Game 6

    Jewish Hoops Fairytale Falls Short as David Blatt’s Cavaliers Drop Game 6

    JNS.org – A fairytale ending to Jewish basketball coach David Blatt’s first season in the National Basketball Association (NBA) was not meant to be, as the Blatt-led Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night dropped Game 6 of the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors, 105-97, to lose the best-of-seven series 4-2. Blatt, who just last year coached Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv franchise to a European basketball championship, failed to finish a second straight hoops season on top. But after the Cavaliers began the NBA […]

    Read more →