After the fall (ISRAEL HAYOM OP-ED) Clifford D. May 08/02/12)
Israel Hayom Articles-Index-Top
Call me soft, but I can’t be blase about mass murder. The genocide
carried out by the communists in Cambodia in the 1970s, the
slaughters of Tutsis by Hutus in Rwanda in 1994, of Muslims by Serbs
in Srebrenica in 1995, of Darfurians by Sudanese jihadis in recent
years — these were shocking, appalling atrocities by any standard.
They also were failures of American and European leadership, proof
that the “international community” is a fiction and that the U.N. is
So when President Barack Obama justified the intervention in Libya
based on fear of a “bloodbath” — following Moammar Gadhafi’s vow to
show “no mercy” to rebels in the country’s east — I was
supportive. “We knew that if we waited one more day, Benghazi, a city
nearly the size of Charlotte [N.C.], could suffer a massacre that
would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience
of the world,” Obama said.
Across the Mediterranean, many Syrian opponents of Bashar al-Assad
took that to mean there was a red line the dictator would not be
permitted to cross. Other Syrians argued that Obama was not sincere;
that his concern for Libya derived from Europe’s thirst for oil and
distaste for North African refugees. As the Syrian death toll has
mounted — estimates are now near 19,000 — this interpretation has
become difficult to dispute.
Western reluctance to take steps to stop Assad’s butchery created a
vacuum al-Qaida has been attempting to fill. When the U.S. was in
Iraq, Assad facilitated the flow of foreign jihadi killers across his
eastern border. Now the jihadis are coming home to roost, with three
of Assad’s top deputies killed by a bomb on July 18.
In that, there is rough justice but not irony: The jihadis seek
domination in Iraq (where al-Qaida attacks have been rising sharply
since the U.S. withdrawal), Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan,
Somalia, Mali — whatever lands they can get their bloody hands on.
They will accept help from anyone who will give it. But Islamists,
like Communists, are not burdened by such bourgeois sentiments as
gratitude. That should have been among the key lessons we learned
after helping the mujahedeen end the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
Assad’s killing machine has been weakened and may be defeated. I
can’t predict when. What can be foreseen is that the day Assad falls,
there will be an explosion of anger not just against him and those in
his inner circle, but against all Alawites, his minority sect (about
12 percent of the population), and against those Christians who long
ago decided that an alliance with Assad was their least-worst option.
The jihadis will take the lead in this butchery, and make every
effort to remain leaders thereafter. What will be the American and
Former CIA analyst Bruce Riedel is among those arguing that “one of
the priorities of the international community after Assad falls will
be to protect the Alawite community and its allies from vengeance.”
Color me dubious. After failing to take serious steps to protect
Assad’s victims, we’re going to make it a “priority” to prevent
revenge against those viewed as Assad’s accomplices?
On the other hand, I can’t go as far as my colleague Lee Smith, who
wrote: “The idea that the Assad regime and its supporters warrant
American protection simply because they are a minority group is not
only strategically incoherent but immoral ... Does anyone believe
that in the aftermath of World War II it was the role of the United
States to save the Nazis and their allies from the Red Army? Of
American forces in Europe did indeed turn a blind eye not only to
Soviet brutality but also as the French roughly settled scores with
fellow citizens who had been cozy with German invaders. But that was
then, this is now, and I’m not sure the same rules apply. And there
is this to consider: What would follow the slaughter of Syrian
Alawites and Christians? What kind of Syria could be built on this
Such concerns have policy implications. To stop Assad’s carnage as
soon as possible requires providing material support to Syrian
rebels, very carefully and probably covertly. We want our Syrian
friends — and we do have some — in possession of more money and guns.
That will not only help them defend themselves against Assad’s troops
now, it also will enhance their strength against other factions
later. What’s more, Obama has said many times that we are at war with
al-Qaida. Surely that implies we not permit al-Qaida to get the upper
hand, not in Syria, not in Iraq, not in Africa, not anywhere.
When the fighting is over, the last thing we should want to see is
the rise of yet another strongman. A regime dominated by the Muslim
Brotherhood would be no victory for freedom either.
Other outcomes can be imagined. Syria is a mosaic of ethno-religious
communities. Good fences will be required to make them good
neighbors. Start with Syria’s Kurds who have been aloof from the
fighting, relatively safe in their northeastern territories. In a
post-Assad Syria, they’ll want substantial autonomy. They should have
it within a federal Syria that guarantees minority rights to
Alawites, Christians, Druze and other groups. Al-Qaida won´t like it,
Iran and Hezbollah won´t like it, and some in the Sunni majority
won’t like it either. But those who hope to rebuild Syria as a decent
country, independent and at peace within its borders, should readily
grasp the benefits.
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY