Daniel Pipes

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.


Daniel Pipes

Daniel Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum.