I had a nice long, serious, moderately thoughtful piece prepared on why the West shouldn’t intervene in Syria. It was going to talk about how, despite my view that Western armies (principally American, but be fair, Canada has punched above its weight in the last century) are one of the great forces for peace and civilization in the modern era (in particular, how, notwithstanding the conceits of the Euro-philes, the secret to peace in Europe for the past 7+ decades was the presence of Anglo-sphere armies in Germany – just remember Germans, we defended you from the commies for four decades, but we weren’t invited there), I couldn’t get over the sense that any intervention in Syria is just going to be a complete and total clusterfuck. It would probably end up with the West propping up an opposition government that differed from the Assad government only in the target of its human rights violations, but only if the whole thing didn’t degenerate into a Lebanon-style schmozzle of ethnic and religious cleansing in a country jammed pack with Russian weapons and chemical munitions. But, really, nothing I can say can better exemplify why the West should want nothing to with Syria than this article: “Outrage at Syrian rebel shown ‘eating soldier’s heart’“. The title kind of speaks for itself, but from the article:
US-based Human Rights Watch identified the rebel as Abu Sakkar, a well-known insurgent from the city of Homs, and said his actions were a war crime.
The video, which cannot be independently authenticated, seems to show him cutting out the heart.
“I swear to God we will eat your hearts and your livers, you soldiers of Bashar the dog,” the man says, referring to President Bashar al-Assad as he stands over the soldier’s corpse.
Yeah, that’s right, heart-eaters.
Now, sure, it’s unfair to tar the Syrian opposition parties with the action of one lunatic. On the other hand, this particular lunatic isn’t just your everyday cannibal, he is, according to Human Rights Watch, the leader of the Independent Omar al-Farouq Brigade, an offshoot of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) Al-Farouq Brigades (one of the FSA’s most important fighting units). He’s also been credibly accused of indiscriminately shelling Shia villages in Lebanon. All in all a nice guy. Let’s be honest, no one is under the illusions that the opposition parties are filled with saints. While the Al-Farouq Brigade is purportedly “moderately Islamist”, when it contains (or contained) heart-eaters, you start to wonder what “moderate” means in this context. (As an aside, “moderately” Islamist? That’s sort of like being a “moderate” Klan member. Better than an “extremist”, I guess, but still…).
In a perfect world, the West could intervene, impose some peace, order and good government, establish a government filled with liberal democrats and turn Syria into a middle-eastern version of Canada, with more mosques and fewer beavers. We did it in Germany and Japan. But since that would probably take hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of Western soldiers decades to achieve (and even then, only with buy-in from the locals), does anyone seriously think that’s going to happen? Best case scenario, with Western intervention, the “moderate” Islamists in the FSA take over and only modestly (and, hopefully, discretely) oppress the shit out of the Alawite minority who back the Assad government. (Aside: There’s a reason the fighting’s so nasty – the Alawites have long been persecuted by “mainstream” Islam. They know that, if they lose, they’re fucked. That’s probably why they will do pretty much anything to win.) Mind you, that’s pretty much the same as the best case scenario if the Assad government wins, so call it a wash. I’m reminded of Kissinger’s line about the Iran-Iraq war: “It is a pity they can’t both lose”.
And that’s the best case scenario. Worst case, Syria fractures on religious and ethnic lines (between Kurd, Turks and Arabs and Alawites, Sunnis, Christians) and entangles its neighbours (Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon and Israel) and Western armies in a decades-long civil war, while both Shia and Sunni Islamist fruitbats rage against American “crusaders” and their accomplices (read: dupes) in the Western left (the same ones now calling for American intervention) rant and rave about American imperialism, “blood for oil” and how this is all Israel’s fault. Think Beirut circa 1983. With chemical weapons. Yeah, no thanks. Were it not for the fact that the millions of otherwise innocent Syrians trapped between the two sides would be affected, my wife’s suggestion – “nuke the place and give it to the Palestinans” – would have considerable merit.
I understand the impulse to want to intervene. I share it. But intervention isn’t a choice between letting the Assad government violate human rights or not. It’s a choice between mass murderers (the government) and cannibals (the opposition), with the latter option paid for with the lives of our soldiers. No thanks.