Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Musings on Impending Disaster in Syria

In Tony Karon's Time article yesterday, he hypothesizes about five potential disasters that await those in Syria if the rebellion persists - even, perhaps, once Assad is finally no longer in power. Mr. Karon is unfortunately spot on; Assad will most likely be killed or will himself defect within the next month or so, but the conflict is far from over. Furthermore, the longer the combat is allowed to rage on, the likelier the results in post-Assad Syria are very, very bad.

Let's quit hypothesizing for a moment, though. Reality must precede assumptions about the future, and the reality of the current situation is grave. What the United States - and the rest of the world - need to do is continue to work towards ensuring stability as cautiously and strategically as possible. This is no easy task, as the Syrian National Council and the rebel army have virtually no leadership, and barely even act as a unified opposition. The disorganization NATO encountered in the Libyan opposition forces is magnified in Syria, and the first step the developed world must take is establishing more of a cohesive and productive opposition force. Without any political entity to take the place of Assad once he is gone, Syria will collapse into a disastrous failed state, and during the worst crisis the E.U. has experienced in recent memory and an election year in the U.S., it is unlikely the Western world will be able to adequately intervene.

This is easier said than done of course, and maybe I'm being overly optimistic, but I think it can be done. The Sunnis do make up the vast majority of the Syrian population, and have overall a similar idea of what they want a new Syria to look like. Furthermore, their disillusion lies with Assad and his administration, not the entire Alawite majority, as is commonly thought. Constructive dialogue between the Sunnis and the various minorities would assuage the latter's concerns that a Sunni-led government would mean persecution of minorities. I would even argue, albeit with slight skepticism, that enough of these dialogues could result in a coalition government, ensuring political equality for all religious sects and establishing a more democratic Syria than has ever previously existed.

The rest of the world needs to act fast on this. Syria currently contains a highly destructive armed conflict that is situated in a highly volatile region of the world. Mr. Koran is right in arguing that anything from the release of dangerous chemical weapons to al-Qaeda establishing a stronghold in the country is a possibility, and the sooner the U.S. realizes this and acts on reaching a more stable post-Assad Syria, the better off we will all be.

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