Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Civil War in Syria - Evil versus Evil

A Syrian man helping a woman as she mourns over the dead bodies of
children after an alleged poisonous gas attack fired by regime forces,
Photo credit: AP
What a terrible neighborhood Israel lives in!

Watching the horror of innocent human beings suffering the consequences of a chemical weapons attack can stir some pretty strong emotions. The type of emotion that will make any decent human being ask, Why is the civilized world allowing this to happen? Why isn’t anyone doing anything about it? Especially the United States which is the Medina Shel Chesed ( dubbed by Rav Moshe Feinstein)?

It has been all over the news. Apparently Syrian dictator Bashar Assad has gassed his own people sending chemically laden rockets (possibly nerve gas) into rebel strongholds.

President Obama has said that if chemical weapons are even remotely suspected, it will be a red line for the United States. Presumably this means that we would be sending military aid of some sort to rebel forces there. In fact the first time there was suspicion that Syria used chemical weapons, the US (after taking its time) decided to send weapons to the rebels. They have not yet arrived, according to a news report this morning on CBS.

The President is dragging his feet. That is what it seems like and he’s getting a lot of criticism for it. Rightfully so one might say after witnessing what happened yesterday. But I’m not sure I agree.

The tragedy is that indeed there are very likely innocent victims being gassed. And it is highly likely that it is the Syrian government doing it to the rebel forces.

But in fairness to the President, I too would be reluctant in sending any support to the rebels. First of all it has not been conclusively proven that Syria has done this. They have denied it (as I would expect them too even if they did do it.)

It is possible that the rebels, who are losing the war, did it to themselves to gain sympathy from the world and to ‘show’ how evil the Assad regime is. If that is what happened, it is surely working since everybody sees this as an attack by Assad’s government forces.

To be honest, that is probably not the case since the Syrian government is known to have stores of chemical weapons and probably has full control over access to them. Where would the rebel’s get such weapons? On the other hand… where there’s a will, there’s a way…

Here’s the thing. The President understands (and I agree with him) that there are no good guys versus bad guys there. At least not clearly defined good guys. Assad’s Syrian dictatorship is evil. But so too are many of the factions fighting him. They are not an organized group of democrats seeking to create a free and open society based on individual rights of all its citizens with leaders that will be democratically elected.

Most of the disparate groups fighting Assad are not interested in creating a Jeffersonian style rights based democracy. They just want to take over and create a society of their own liking - perhaps not unlike what happened in Egypt when Morsi took over. Although I’m sure there are some good guys among those rebel groups that would like to see a more or less rights based democracy there - I don’t think anyone can really identify which of the rebels fit that category… or how many of them there are. It would not beneath an Islamist to lie about his intent – claiming to be a democrat only to revel his true Islamist intentions after victory.

So… who do we send these arms to? How does helping one side help the cause of justice and freedom? Democracies in countries with powerful anti democratic forces don’t stand a chance of surviving – even if we could identify the good guys there. And to the best of my knowledge – we can’t!

So as hard as it is to watch people (including little children) suffering from a gas attack and watching what seems to be innocent victims being buried in mass graves after succumbing to those chemical weapons, I’m just not sure who to help.

If we succeed in toppling Assad, who will replace him? And what kind of society will he create? Will the innocent citizens who crave a return to a peaceful lifestyle be any better off if another dictator takes the place of the previous one? Will they be better off if a religious dictatorship replaces a secular one? And how will this new regime affect Israel? Will a new and more radicalized Islamist country bordering the Jewish state not be an increased existential threat to it?

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t do anything. The humanitarian situation there is grave. We have to do something. But what?!