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We Need To Get Real About Syria

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Let there be no doubt about it – Bashar al Assad is an evil man. He has killed untold numbers of his own people, many with the worst weapons human beings have ever created. The world will be a better place when he no longer exists. That said, it’s not the responsibility of the United States to take him out or even hold him in check.


I’m not much of a conspiracy theorist, though I’ll admit to entertaining a few from time to time. But the idea that Assad would use chemical weapons on his own people the week after President Donald Trump announced his intentions to withdraw US troops in the near future seems crazy. Now, Assad is evil, but his evil is not fueled by crazy. He has one thing in common with almost all of history’s despots – he’s not suicidal. 

If Assad were crazy and had a stockpile of weapons of mass destruction, why wouldn’t he use them? I mean often, not once per year when the United States, the main obstacle to his wiping out the rebellion against him, announces plans to pull back from the theater of war. 

He controls the country’s military, has the backing of Russia, and never gave a damn about killing his own people to maintain his grip on power – a reign of terror on civilians would crush his enemies and the uprising. He hasn’t used weapons of mass destruction on a mass scale for the same reason he hasn’t been able to vanquish his enemies: we are there.

The involvement of the United States with the rebels has propped them up and given the impression that they stand a chance of “winning.” But, as is often the case in the Middle East, many of our rebel “friends” are as bad, if not worse, than our collective enemy. 


The rebels are a fractured group of tribes, ethnic groups, and religious sects that would like to start a war with each other should Assad be removed from the scene. So simply killing Assad would not lead to peace or stability, just another mess with different players.

There’s a fallacy in the United States, one I used to believe in too, that the rest of the world yearns to be free and live in a democratic republic like we have. The truth is they don’t.

It’s not that they reject freedom and individual liberty, it’s that they have no understanding of the concept. The people of Afghanistan and Iraq were liberated from universally recognized despotic regimes – they were freed. Almost immediately afterwards, old divisions and factions reformed and they were fighting each other. They had freedom laid out to them on a silver platter and they took a pass.

There is no history of individual liberty in the world, that’s in large part what makes our republic so extraordinary. That it lasted as long as it has is a bit of a miracle. But just as we take it for granted here, which is how we’re losing it, we also take for granted that the rest of the world is envious of what we have. They might be envious of the things we have, but individual liberty is not something that can be effectively learned about second hand, it’s a conclusion you can only come to through experience. Especially in places where education serves as indoctrination, not an outlet to open minds.


Despotic countries aren’t interested in educating their populations, educated people question government authority. We see it here on a smaller scale in high schools and colleges where students protest that President Trump is a fascist while simultaneously demanding more government control over everyone’s lives. In the US, students take for granted what they have, almost resent it, in places like the Middle East students, to the extent they’re educated, are taught the same thing – to resent others. 

They’re taught the root of their problems, the forces holding them down, are this nebulous “other” – Jews, Israel, the US, another tribe – to keep anger smoldering and directed away from where it belongs. Every once in awhile it boils over and people rebel against their rulers, but they rarely do so in the name of liberty, they do it because they want their “team” to be the rulers. 

Imagine if Antifa or Occupy Wall Street had obtained power in the United States. Do you think they would govern with an even hand? Of course not. They’d stamp out dissent and gradually expand what is considered dissent to encompass almost everyone not them. Even if you hate Trump or Wall Street, part of you has to admit it’s a good thing they’re not in control.

What we have in Syria and many other places, is what amounts to a fight between Antifa and OWS, with one in power trying to fight off the other. They are slight variations of the same concept, they just want their team to have absolute power. They don’t want a limited republic, they want their own despotic ruler. There is no winner in the grand scheme of things.


So why should we involve ourselves in the civil war of a country on the other side of the planet? 

Yes, Assad may well have used chemical weapons, which is horrible and the videos are appalling. But we don’t know for sure that he did it. And even if he did, shouldn’t it be more of a concern for his neighbors than us? The same goes for if it was a faction of the rebels who did it. Why aren’t Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, etc., holding the warring factions accountable? Why aren’t they bombing Assad if he’s using these weapons? Chaos is much more likely to bleed into their countries than ours. 

Israel allegedly bombed the airfield where the latest attack originated, but why should they have to? If the neighboring Arab countries aren’t willing to police their own backyards, even when something purely evil happens, why should anyone else? Why should we escalate our involvement?

What happened in Syria, and what has been happening for years, is an unspeakable evil. But unspeakable evils are happening in all areas of the world, we don’t and can’t involve ourselves in all of them, and we shouldn’t involve ourselves. 

It’s horrible when people are killed by their government, no matter the method, but if the neighbors of those governments won’t step up and intervene, why should we? And if we must in Syria, why not elsewhere? Where does it end? 


Launching a few cruise missiles will allow all involved to feel good about themselves, but it won’t accomplish anything in the long run. Overthrowing Assad will only trade one set of problems for another, and we’d have a hand in creating the new ones. 

Our target in Syria is ISIS, and that should remain our focus. As for what should come of Assad, that should be allowed to play out on its own or with the support of neighboring countries that would be directly impacted by its result. If they want our help we should offer it, but the Syrian civil war is not our fight.


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