So here is the deal: if no nation leads the world, many nations will lead the world. There is no ‘natural order’ of things. There is always a force behind anything that happens. It reminds me what a friend told me some time ago: I have no qualms in brainwashing my children. If I don’t do it, someone else will.
What we are seeing in Syria (and in most of all the other ‘Arab Spring’ nations) is the takeover of populist movements over old dictatorial establishment. That establishment was rotten (as all dictatorships are) but they were for the most part stable (within the region’s parameters of course).
Actually, one of the big ironies of this situation is that these populist revolts had more success in countries which were doing reasonably well (Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria) and very little to no success in countries which were in some kind of crisis (Algeria, Iraq, other African countries).
What the US under Obama and all Europe are doing here is very dangerous: we are washing our hands. The one place where we did something (Libya) turned out to be a huge mess; we probably saved some rebel lives but condemned many others to torture and death (Gadhafi would tell you about it if he could). Places where we did nothing are doing even worse (Egypt and specially Syria). No one in their right mind would be able to predict what will happen in these countries. Estimates from Syria say that the death toll is approaching 8,000, with 60,000 detained and 20,000 missing. Don’t forget that this is a relatively small country (22 million people). 86 thousand Syrians are the equivalent of 110 thousand in Iraq’s population. Now do you remember the infamous Iraq’s 100k death toll story a few years ago? Guess what: 100 thousand people might have died in Libya as well and that is a country of only 5.6 million people!
But unfortunately that is not even the worst part in this whole mess: we don’t even know who these ‘rebels’ are or what they are about. For all the mayhem and blood of Iraq, we knew who was in power: us. But look at Egypt. Is it better now than it was under Mubarak? How about Libya? Could any of you name even one important figure on either government? I know I can’t.
This could be the Iranian Revolution multiplied by 10. Now, just imagine all the issues we have had with Iran since 1979 and multiply that by any factor. We can’t even decide how to deal with Iran now, so imagine how crazy it would be to deal with a collection of crazies in the same region some time in the future.
You also have to ask yourself why Russia and China are standing by al-Assad. Is it really just a business matter? Are they afraid of what these rebels would do if they gained power? Should we be?
At the same time, I keep thinking of all the stupidity that we heard during the Iraq war. All the pseudo-humanitarian concerns, all the talk about the ills of nation building… Are we really saving money and lives here by not intervening? Or is this a bill that will accrue interests big time and come back to bite us in the future? I don’t know the answers and I don’t think Obama does. His pathetic attempt to use diplomacy to solve these issues tells me that he is as clueless as Carter was in 1979. He is not alone thought – not even liberal pundits can tell you what needs to be done here. Check this one out as an example.
We will have to learn our lessons someday. Hope our kids do a better job when their turn comes up.