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(CNN)   Things aren't all bad for Syrian rebels, they just re-captured a bunch of burned out bricks, so they've got that going for them. Which is nice   ( edition.cnn.com) divider line
    More: Interesting, Syrians, Middle Eastern countries, Idlib, Aleppo, Sunni Muslims, residential areas, college town  
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1690 clicks; posted to Main » on 20 Jun 2013 at 9:25 AM (5 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»

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2013-06-20 01:09:26 PM  
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From TFA:

Most of those now returning to the town are Christians, highlighting the increasingly sectarian nature of the conflict in Syria. George is a Christian as well. He says his son was kidnapped by Islamist fighters and he clearly blames some of his Sunni Muslim neighbors for collaborating with the opposition.
"We have been living with the Muslims for generations," his wife said as we stood in their ruined apartment. "I don't know why they did this, why they helped them."

George also took us to his brother's house, which was almost razed to the ground. Many of the rooms were burned from the inside. George said his brother fled when one of his sons was killed by rebel fighters.

"My brother is an engineer. His son came to the door and they shot him because they think all Christians are against them," George tells me.

It might surprise most Americans that there are plenty of Christians in Syria, about 10% of the population. (In comparison, in the USA African-Americans comprise about 13%.) Most of them are Greek Orthodox, a church that might seem exotic or foreign to your average Methodist or Baptist and has been called "schismatic" by the Popes for centuries, but like most Americans they believe in the Trinity and pray to Jesus.

Keep in mind that, to quote Wikipedia, "Syria is at most 59-61% Sunni Arab" and this war is largely a war of Sunni Arabs against everybody else. Syrian Christians tend to support the government because it tolerates religious ans ethnic minorities amid a Sunni Arab sea: Kurds and Turkmen (of whatever religion), Alawites, Armenians, Druze, "mainstream" shiates, Christians of various denominations, Ismailis, atheists and secularists.  It's not so much that they love the Assad regime, just that the Assad regime allows them to go about their lives without persecution.

It pains me to side against anti-government rebels, and I am aware that the ruling clique is a bloody dictatorship, but in this case the underdogs are ethnic and religious minorities -- while an unknown but large and powerful percentage of the rebels are militant Arab Sunni Islamists of the Al Qaida type. If they win I predict ethnic and religious "cleansing," including bloodbaths.

The USA does not have a dog in this fight: those rebels who want an "American-style democracy" are few and far between, and they're not likely to be very influential in a "new Syria" regardless of what the US government does. That's typical: the US government was against the USSR but there's no American-style democracy in the new Russia, it was against Saddam's regime but there's no American-style democracy in the new Iraq, and it was against the Taliban but the incumbent Afghan government is hardly what we'd call a democracy. American support of the rebels is not likely to result in the kind of free society we cherish: indeed those Syrians who most closely resemble most Americans are likely to be much much worse off than they are now under Assad.

I'm not saying the USA should support Assad's dictatorship -- I certainly don't. I am saying that the USA should join Russia in advocating a negotiated solution to the Syrian crisis, even if that means letting the Assads get away to live in mansions on the French Riviera paid for will ill-gotten loot.  No matter who wins this war Syria is not likely to come out with the kind of government and society Americans take for granted; these kinds of conflicts don't work out that way. The winners in such wars are likely to be the most ruthless killers. (Most Americans aren't like that, are we?)

The way the US can help the Syrian people approximate American-style democracy is to pick those Syrian factions who are most like us and push for them in the negotiations, regardless of whose side they're on now. If they're on any side: most of the "nice guys" are keeping their heads down hoping neither side shoots them, that's what "nice guys" do. It would most fit American values for the USA to support them and insist on a greater share for minorities in the new Syrian government; if that's not possible it might be necessary to divide Syria the way the UN divided Bosnia.

If the US government (and I mean the Senate and Congress as well as the Executive Branch) can't stomach being on more or less the same side as Putin's Russia then the best thing to do is to go back to staying the hell out of it -- hoping to help reorganize the rubble.

The USA should not be on the same side as Al Qaeda.
2013-06-20 10:37:44 AM  
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