Though President Barack Obama has been vocal in his support of the rebel efforts, U.S. forces have been restricted to supporting the Free Syrian Army with only standard supplies, not including weapons. Crimes committed against Syrian civilians at the hand of Syrian President Bassar al-Assad’s regime have received international condemnation, but still have not pushed the U.S. into action.
Henri J. Barkey, an international relations professor at Lehigh University, asserts that though the U.S. appears hesitant in its support of Syria, its current stance is the correct one.
Barkey points out the two main arguments being used by supporters of American intervention. “The first, and most compelling, is that the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe befalling the Syrian people mandates international action,” he wrote in a Washington Post commentary. “The second is based on realpolitik: Supporting the just and winning cause of the Syrian rebels will put the United States in good standing with the regime that emerges from the conflict. Both arguments are wrong.”
The professor identifies the clash in Syria not as genocide, but as a civil war. Though Assad’s regime is recognized as corrupt and oppressive, there are still those in Syria who support it, and would be brought into direct conflict with the U.S. In addition, civilian casualties would not be reduced by American military action. U.S. involvement in the political affairs of another Muslim country would likely lead to even more tension between the Middle East and the West.
“The longstanding truth underlying this situation is that, for decades, Arabs have been exposed to, even under friendly regimes, daily diatribes of anti-Americanism by their governments, media and academics,” Barkey writes. “This will neither end nor change because we decide to help the Syrian opposition.”
Though there is no doubt that the Obama administration is awaiting the fall of the Assad regime, direct action would likely spark more violence and tension for all parties involved. U.S. officials have chosen to sit back and aid the rebellion from behind the scenes for a reason, not simply because it’s an election year.