Had Israel behaved as the Americans and Europeans desired, today Bashar Assad of Syria would be sitting atop the Golan Heights, and would surely start a war with Israel to divert attention from his domestic troubles. The "unintended consequences" of such a war might be horrific.
We Americans, with our democratically-honed sensibilities, try to comprehend the mess that the Arab world has gotten itself into -- and seems unable to rise out of. This is worth repeating: THEY put themselves into the hole -- not the government or the people of the United States. In Tuesday's New York Times opinion piece "The Betrayal of Egypt," Sara Khorshid, an Egyptian journalist, accused the U.S. of supporting Egypt's military by handing them the annual $ 1.6 billion in aid. Actually, it's a smart move, because amidst the upheaval we must look out for America's interests.
John McCain -- he of "the surge is working, my friends" fame -- advocates it.
In an April 16, 2012 Time Magazine article, Fareed Zakaria, the preeminent Middle East analyst, asked: "Why does it seem that democracy has such a hard time taking root in the Arab world?" Aye, ti's the question.
One theory blames the ancient Caliphates of Egypt and Syria that lasted from the 7th to the 13th centuries, and created the greatest scientific and philosophical achievements of the Middle Ages. Since then these Arab nations have been in retreat, suffering continuous wars between bloody tyrants and fanatical religionists, a combustible mixture of stagnation and despair.
Today Arab countries experience a lack of economic and intellectual competition. They endure a deficit of secularism; a deficit of norms to form a civil society, a deficit of women's equality. They lack what we in the West call "A Free Marketplace of Ideas." (Certainly, there are individuals who possess and display these exemplary qualities -- but their numbers are not sufficient to bring democratic changes.)
We say that Syria's Assad is slaughtering "his own people." Naturally, every despot slaughters his own people; other people wouldn't allow it Remember how we kept repeating that Saddam Hussein used mustard gas "against his own people?" And thirty years ago, Hafez Assad, Bashar's father, slaughtered twenty thousand citizens in the city of Hama. Then and now their "own people" wanted to remove and kill them. Instead, they were killed.
The reason for this mayhem is the Arabs' historical division between the two religious sects: Shiites and Sunnis. Suffice it to say that these sects hate each other as much as they hate the Zionists, and refer to each other as "dogs." Syria has 21 million inhabitants, 80% Sunni and 12% Alawite-Shia, to which Assad belongs. For centuries, the Alawite minority was subjugated by the Sunnis until Bashar's cunning father, Hafez, staged a coup, and killed those twenty thousand rebellious Sunni Muslim Brotherhood members. Hafez made a deal with the Sunni Ba'ath party, the same ones who dominated Iraq before Saddam Hussein's fall.
For anyone who still thinks that it's our moral duty to intervene in Syria, consider this: Assad has the biggest stockpile of surface to surface missiles in the Middle East, as well as chemical and possibly biological weapons. The Israelis believe that he may use them if forced into a "doomsday option."
A few prognostications are certain: in the not-too-distant future Basha Assad will be gone. You simply can't run up fourteen thousand dead -- and keep on doing it for any length of time. And when this happens, does anyone doubt that the reprisals against the Alawites will be horrific? We also don't arm "the opposition," because they are the Sunnis and the Muslim Brotherhood -- who may end up running both Egypt and Syria.
Though it's frustrating for America's can-do nature -- we must wait, bribe, cajole and, if possible, threaten, the Russians, the Chinese and the Saudis, to help us prevent a "Doomsday Option."