Opinion

The Great Debate

America’s nonintervention is a vote for Syria’s Assad

By Wendy Pearlman
June 3, 2014

 Syriaelection77

Many Syrians who voted for Bashar al-Assad in today’s presidential elections did so in the belief that the alternative to the current regime is a takeover by Islamist radicals.

Increasingly, Western leaders agree. As Ryan Crocker, former U.S. ambassador to Syria, said recently, “As bad as the regime is, there is something worse — which is extreme elements of the opposition.”

This is a cruel irony. It ignores how the United States’ lack of involvement in Syria allowed extremists to flourish in the first place. The question is not whether the Syrian regime is better than Islamist extremism, but how the world can forsake Syrians to suffer oppression by both.

For years, Syria’s besieged opposition has pleaded for help from the international community, to no avail. Instead, al Qaeda-linked groups entered Syria and grew. Awash with funds, largely from private sources in Persian Gulf states, they now impose their rule of terror on many Syrian towns. Mounting evidence indicates that Assad himself facilitated these groups, so that he would have a legion of terrorists he could claim to fight.

Assad will not stop committing war crimes, let alone agree to a negotiated transition, unless pressured to do so. Sanctions and diplomacy have failed. Assad’s allies, Russia and Iran, continue to reinforce him with money, arms, fighters and United Nations vetoes.

syriaelection555The international community can still take bold political initiatives, such as transferring embassies and other elements of sovereignty from the Syrian regime to the opposition. Yet only a change on the battlefield will counter Assad’s claim, bolstered by today’s elections, that he is winning the war.

That tide is unlikely to shift without American leadership. President Barack Obama’s pledge last week to “ramp up support” for the Syrian opposition is thus a welcome signal of engagement. Still, the White House has not offered specifics. Some fear that the aid will be insufficient to make a difference or, if predicated on congressional approval, will take months to go into effect.

There is no time to waste. After more than three years of hunger, exhaustion, and burying their dead, Syria’s nationalist rebels are being beaten back by the regime’s military machine.

U.S. inaction has been a major contributor to this disastrous outcome. Obama and the majority of Americans have favored staying on the sidelines. That has made us a bystander to crimes against humanity.

Rebel forces need serious and immediate training and arming. In addition, more direct intervention should not be ruled out.

Many who resist military involvement invoke a choice no less false than the one presented to Syrian voters today: the United States either stays out of Syria or becomes embroiled in an all-out Iraq-style invasion.

As James TraubFrederic Hof and others repeatedly argue, this is simply not true. The United States has many options beyond troops on the ground, which no Syrians want. An air bombing campaign could destroy the aircraft that Assad uses to drop barrel bombs on civilians. Targeted strikes could destroy the tanks and artillery formations that he uses to shell communities and starve them into submission.

The United Nations calls Syria the worst humanitarian crisis of the century. Faced with certain atrocities or an uncertain future, the Obama administration should not vote for the former. It must take decisive action against Assad. Otherwise, it is casting its own ballot for continuation of the current tragedy.

PHOTOS: A woman marks her ballot paper at polling center in Damascus June 3, 2014. REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri

A Syrian woman living in Jordan wearing a scarf reads, “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger” shouts slogans against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and against the establishment of the presidential election, during a demonstration near of the Syrian embassy in Amman May 28, 2014. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed

 

Comments
10 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

who’s running against him? Jeb Bush?

Posted by rikfre | Report as abusive
 

Another worthless post asking USA to spend taxpayers money “helping these terrorists” who are going to come back and bite US butts later.Afganistan,Pakistan,Iraq…when will we learn?

Posted by Pulayadi | Report as abusive
 

I expect this sort of tantalizing Headliner from Parker and Rubin at the Post, but didn’t think to see it at Reuters.
How about,
“America’s Non-Intervention is a Vote Against Islamic Extremists”

Posted by jim.e.k. | Report as abusive
 

America’s non-intervention is a vote against Syria’s radical,jihadist Islamists.

Posted by jim.e.k. | Report as abusive
 

Military Intervention or other kinds of intervention by Washington in the Arab World has brought only misery and genocide. The example is Iraq where 5 million middle class people left the country, a million died, terrorists roam the country, and infrastructure was destroyed by US bombardments. All this was done to please the Israeli lobby. Look at Yemen and Libya and see what the U.S intervention has led, killing and destruction on large scale.
As of Syria, the US has unleashed terrorists and Arab dictators organized and financed them. The Whole beautiful cities of Syria are gone and bloodbath is the normal scene. Those who call for more destruction of Syria disguised as Washington can do more, are just mere terrorists. Those who planned and executed the destruction of Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, etc. must be held as enemy of humanity and must be brought to criminal court.

Posted by JohnGlobe | Report as abusive
 

I think the Western Nations should go in with limited air strikes to cripple the leadership of Syria. If that doesn’t work, cripple their air force. There is much more than the West can do other than watch another country self-destruct.

Posted by greenspy | Report as abusive
 

In how many countries US take care of humanity?
Bombing from air is it humanity.How many innocents have died in North Pakistan and Iraq?
Wars are destructive.Assad has not started the war.He was only ruler and he did his duty only for law and order.Political or religious conflicts are common in every country.Let them solves by themselves instead of involvement of outside forces.

Posted by gentalman | Report as abusive
 

America can not afford to take care of problems of other countries,ignoring their own problems.To make money is not the governance.Look at the problems like,internal security,crimes,education system,rich and poors income differences,natural calamities,environmental problems etc.

Posted by gentalman | Report as abusive
 

Assad is protecting his people. The recent vote proves this.

Posted by abc369 | Report as abusive
 

Why is it that all these Jewish authors and thinkers argue for continued war in the middle east??? Why dont we just stay out???

Does it have to do with protecting the apartheid state of Isreal??

Posted by KyleDexter | Report as abusive
 

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