The Syrian's Dilemma
On February 13, 2014, I told Jerome MacDonald, in an interview on Worldview on Chicago Public Radio, "On the strategic level, I think that if we do not succeed in Syria, there are so many issues over the next fifty years of American foreign policy that will be traced back to President Obama's administration." Syrians in their search for freedom find themselves in a dilemma. In spite the warnings about the consequences of the vacuum of power in Syria since the early stages of the militarization of the revolution, the American administration did not correctly read this warning until the fall of Mosul. There is a quasi agreement among observers that we must have ground troops to deal with ISL. The Syrian dilemma is in the answer to the question, Who will send their troops under the cover of US airpower to deal with ISL? The short answer is "No one." Whatever the answer, the Syrian rebels are going to have the short end of the deal. The other leg of the dilemma can be read in the absence of the word "democracy" in the last three speeches of the president.
President Obama is framing the question solely with a military vision. Whatever happened to the revolution for democracy, human rights, and freedom? Many Syrians see the consequences of President Obama's vision will put them on the road ending with the choice among living under a military regime the way that Egypt is governed today, or other US allied Middle Eastern Monarchies or under the Iranian occupation in the way Baghdad is controlled by the Iranians today.
The road as we see it today shows that the members (Islamists or non-Islamists) of the Syrian Revolution are going to pay dearly and vainly for the fall of ISL. Under the absence of any international and regional guarantees or plans to help transform Syria into a real democracy, and under the total disregard of the US administration and its allies toward the original purpose of the Syrian Revolution, delaying the commitment of the US to a real democratic Syria actually means the return of Syria to the situation before the revolution with the addition of all the consequent destruction. Assad shall be removed in the same way that al-Malki has gone, but the Syrian Regime shall be reproduced in the same way that Mubarak's regime was reproduced. The rebels will come out of the fight against ISL exhausted, having already lost many of its leaders. It will be in no shape to fight against the re-cycling of the Assad regime under a different façade. The rebel's situation shall be worse if Assad succeeds in establishing a tactical cooperation with ISL as he proved capable of during the American occupation of Iraq.
The American administration's strategy has no regard to what the rebels want. Regional dictators are taking care of appeasing them and bringing them into alignment by threat or by elimination of all dissenting opinions in the rows of the revolution. Even if the rebels succeed to reach a consensus on the return to the non-violent revolution (an idealistic and farfetched assumption) and stand neutral between the regime, ISL and the USA, the rebels have no guarantee that in such an environment they will not turn into the weakest link in a conflict governed only by the power of fire. The US administration's discourse ignores the real reason behind the strength of ISL. This discourse announces publicly its rejection of the Assad regime but at the same time believes that the changes to Baghdad's regime needed to fight ISL are of a cosmetic nature. My argument here might feel "paranoid" for some. However, President Obama is aware of the consequences of his strategy on the people of the region and their democratic inspiration. If he believes that Somalia and Yemen were "American success stories," I hate to inform him that the Syrians have not revolted in the hopes of turning their country into neither Somalia nor Yemen. In one word, a comprehensive vision for a free and democratic Middle East can make the Syrian people true and dependable allies to US foreign policy.