Thoughts of Syria… Wondering If There Is a Way Forward

Today I came across an article written by the relative of a friend (you know it’s like saying she’s your third cousin’s sister in law’s aunt, once removed).  It is an interesting look at Damascus a year on since her last visit to the strife-ridden country.  You can find it here.  She paints an interesting picture of a city that is but a shadow of itself.  And, as only someone from Beirut can, she helps us see it through the eyes of someone used to war-torn ghost towns.  Pretty much daily I see not only articles about the terrible events going on there, but read thoughts from friends asking when the US and world will step in.  I see thoughts about how Bashar Assad needs to go and go now.

Those who’ve read this blog for a while will know that I have very mixed feelings on the Arab Spring.  I have been hesitant about its implications for quite some time.  When everyone was cheering at the success of the rebellion in Egypt, I was worried.  That worry has turned into alarm.  I find myself in a similar position on Syria.  Dictators are bad news.  They really are and this is true of almost any form of single-authority rule.  And yet… when we look at human nature, social development and this region, minorities only thrive in the dictatorships.  Unfortunately, “democracy” in this region seems to degrade into a dictatorship of the majority.

I find myself hoping against hope that for once, America stays out of Syria.  Are atrocities being committed?  Certainly.  Should America continue to police the world with such horrible results?  Absolutely not.  So far our track records includes Iraq (do I really need to say any more?) Egypt, where some 70% of the elected seats have been taken by conservative Islamic groups in a country where Christians have been facing significant persecution (including physical calamity) since the moment Mubarak was ousted.  We’ve got Libya, well, that situation isn’t pretty at all is it?  In fact, I challenge anyone to name a country where we got involved and it turned out well for the minorities…

Unfortunately in this region, as much lip-service as is paid to the Abrahamic religions and their special relationship and the rights of minorities, when Islamic groups begin to run countries, they quickly seem to fall into a pattern of trying to make everyone “respect” (read that follow) Islamic laws.  The reality is, as a wonderful Christian evangelical speaker said of US politics, combining religion and politics is kind of like combining ice cream and horse dung… it doesn’t harm the horse dung, but the ice cream is ruined.  But separation of religion and state doesn’t exist in this region.  So, until the “majority” in one of these countries can find a way to actually protect the minority.  In fact, until the “majority” can even express that that’s important to them rather than calling Christians and others kafir “heathens”, I’m not sure that the US having any involvement whatsoever is a good idea.  After all, some day we’ll need to realize that democracies that protect don’t spring up from nowhere.  Ours in the US was hard-won and hard-fought.  Why should we think it will be different anywhere else?  I’m not sure what path forward in Syria makes sense.  I am sure that the Syria that I have heard so much about in my time in the region isn’t the Syria that I heard about in America.

The Syria I heard about allowed restaurants to serve food during the day, on the street (gasp!) during Ramadan.  It allowed Christians to be Christian.  Rather than forcing everyone to live like Muslims regardless of their religion, it allowed them to live as they wanted.  Maybe that’s because everyone was equally persecuted, I don’t know.  But if so, at least everyone was equal, no?  So, I’ll continue to watch the horrors with sadness.  I’ll continue to pray for the people there, in particular for the families of people I know.  But I’ll also continue to be wary of the US getting involved.  Because after all, shouldn’t the region find its own way through these trying times?  We weather enough charges of modern-day colonialism and imperialism.  Let’s stay out of the fray and let people make their own determinations.  But, let’s also be ready to embrace the minorities who find themselves homeless or worse.  Because given the region’s track record, that’s a near certainty…

Sad reflections.


5 thoughts on “Thoughts of Syria… Wondering If There Is a Way Forward

  1. Well thought out. Thanks for your viewpoint on this. It is truly hard to know what the US should do. And with no possibility for the US or the Arab world to provide assistance or medical care to them, some way must be found to assure that they are provided food, water and basic elements needed just to live. At present this can’t happen. Do we need to look at a new way for these things to be assured to countries like Syria? And does the US even need for the peoples of that country to know from whence came the help? In Afghanistan where the US has provided a large amount of assistance, the food aid and other provisions do not bear any indication that it was donated by the US, and the people of the country curse the US despite the fact that they are living on the substances that were given them by the US. I don’t think it is necessary for the US to get credit for all of it, perhaps, but I DO believe that as the richest nation in the world, they must take every means necessary to attempt to get aid to people in such a situation. Does it mean creating zones where assistance can be provided, where no warring of any kind can go on? It is so hard to know what to do and how to make it work because you can see pros and cons both ways. Yet we must not stand idly by, ‘enjoy’ our relative wealth and have no concern for their well being.

    • MemeBean, I agree. Somehow we have to strike a balance where we stop trying to jerry-rig the outcomes to be “democratic” around the world when we refuse to support the democratic group. And we need to understand that elections do not a free democracy make. Tough ideas for us as Americans to swallow. So, aid is one thing, but interference is something else entirely.

  2. The US should stay out of it. What you are seeing is Arab killing Arab and that will continue until one faction wipes out the other and then wait another 20 or 30 years when it will happen again. The Baath party of Syria is a party of evil, just like the Iraqi Baath party was but it’s up to the Arabs to destroy it and it will be a bloody mess.

  3. A note of comparison, perhaps, with regard to Joe Skeptic’s reply, sounds something like the US problem with black on black crime. I really don’t think in the US the black on black killing and crime should be allowed to go on, and perhaps it would be well to investigate ways for Arabs to curb the Arab on Arab crime. It IS their problem, but we need to be willing and available to offer humanitarian assistance.

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