Syria: Beneath The Headlines


Posted by Bob Lord

I've always had trouble understanding the world's failure to react more quickly to genocide. Syria today is a case in point.

Very recently, I was told something that I'd not seen in the media. Apparently, the Free Syrian Army is asking for very modest help from the White House. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are prepared to provide invaluable anti-tank and anti-aircraft weaponry to the Free Syrian Army, but, because it is American weaponry, White House consent is required. Obama is unwilling. Reportedly, McCain doesn't want to enter the debate, becuase he is reluctant to criticize Obama on an issue of foreign policy. Huh? All McCain does is bash Obama's foreign policy.

So, how does this make sense? I really don't know, but I can think of three possibilities:

    1. A concern that the weaponry in the wrong hands could be used against the U.S.

    2. A concern that the weaponry in the wrong hands could be used against Israel.

    3. A strategic decision that the more Syria is reduced to rubble, the less of a threat it can be in the future, regardless of who is in control.

I discount the first of those possibilities. The need for the U.S. to strike Syria in the future is remote and It seems that a smallish quantity of even our own weaponry could not prevent a sussessful military strike on our part. That leaves doors number 2 and 3. Or some other consideration that I've not thought of.

Regardless of the answer to this riddle, it reveals a cold hard truth about foreign policy. Humanitarian considerations have less influence than just about any other factor in forming foreign policy. For example, I don't know if Obama is concerned that the weaponry Qatar and Saudi Arabia want to make available could be turned against Israel one day. I have little doubt, however, that if Obama did have that concern, it would outweigh the concern that hundreds of Syrians are dying each day through the world's inaction and this is a chance to end the bloodshed with zero risk to American troops. And I have no doubt that any other President would balance such competing considerations in the same manner, as would any ohter world leader. 

When it comes down to it, the lives of ordinary people just don't matter much to those in control. And that's why the world's reaction to genocide is always so maddeningly slow.


  1. The non-violent protest that you speak of was among the very first (if not the first) protest in Syria, in May of 2007, and was a group of approximately 100 supporters of the National Salvation Front. One of the NSF’s most influential and largest groups was, and is, the Muslim Brotherhood. A Washington-based consulting firm, C&O Resources Inc., coordinated the protest, providing media and political contacts, and fed complicit media the theme of a “pro-democracy” uprising. There is concrete evidence of a US-Israeli conspiracy to prop up the Muslim Brotherhood and other known violent extremist groups in Syria to overthrow the government.

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    I’m not so sure about that. Assad is a tyrant, as was his father. There may have been some covert help from the US and others, but the uprising seems largely organic. Remember that this started as a nonviolent protest movement in the context of the Arab Spring. It only became bloody when Assad responded to the protests the way he did. And if you read today’s NY Times, there seems to be some doubt as to how much aid the US actually has given. you posit is consistent with the conduct of U.S. imperialism, so it’s certainly plausible, but I’m not sure it’s the case here.

  3. This is a war that almost certainly would not exist if not for the US and Israel. Both the New Yorker and the Wall Street Journal have documented that the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia have been channeling weapons, cash and technology to the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood – the backbone of this “revolution” – since 2007, when Dick Cheney met with Lebanese proxies of the Brotherhood in Washington to discuss the arrangements of this support. This support, begun under W. Bush, has been continued in earnest under Obama. Thus the violent sectarian bloodbath caused by foreign-backed sedition now engulfing Syria is a direct result of US-Israeli efforts for regime-change.