TAKING A SECOND LOOK AT THE BATTLEFIELD
In the July 22, 2012 New York Times, Janine Giovanni reports on her just completed experience traveling in Syria. Ms. Giovanni describes her disconcerting encounters one receives in the midst of a civil war. The continuing degeneration of Syria lay in rubble everywhere along with a near-total media blackout. While Syrians earlier identified themselves by their national origin, they now describe themselves as Alawites, Christians, Sunnis, Shias, and Druze. The core of the country is crumbling.
Disintegration also appears on the diplomatic front. Kofi Annan tried and failed. Universally, we now recognize cease-fire actually means buying time for more killing. With Russian vetos at the U.N. protecting their own interests, Giovanni perceives another Bosnia looms on the horizon. Boundaries become indistinguishable. I know what she means.
More by accident than intention, some years ago I traveled through the Bosnian conflict on my way down to the Adriatic Sea. Through the windshield, I recognized we were approaching a sandbagged machine gun outpost. We pulled up and I ask where we were. The soldier leaned over his weapon and said, “In the middle of the war.” No signs said, “War straight ahead: Detour.” Needless to say, we quickly moved on!
Janine Giovanni’s point is that no one’s in charge in Syria.
Recently, I received a blog response from Italian journalist Alessandra Nucci warning about distortions in the media reporting on the war. She makes two points worth remembering. First, many stories may reflect personal opinions that may be political bias. She’s right on the money; particularly in a civil war with a news blackout. You have to view the situation from many angles to get the total picture. Recently, a United Kingdom source claimed the “Arab Springtime” was planned by Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama. From the very beginning U.S. Secret Service agents were behind the uprisings. Sheer nonsense, but it makes her point. The Manchester Guardian seemed to believe Assad had been framed. Come on, folks. Let’s get real.
Second, Nucci notes that ending the Assad regime may only bring more chaos, not improvement. Right again.
Many Israelis are not supporting the overthrow of Assad for this very reason. Former Mossad head Meir Dagan noted that the devil you know is to be preferred to the devil your don’t know. Alessandra Nucci makes the point that Assad may well be replaced by a more radical Islamic fundamentalist regime. Anticipating this possibility, the United States has been supplying material and weapons to the rebels. Obviously, hoping to come out on their good side.
Ms. Nucci warns that overthrow of Assad could result in hundreds of thousands of Christians fleeing the country after a rebel victory or being murdered by Muslims. It is true that the Christian population has supported Assad because his government has protected minorities (Assad, the Alawit, comes from a minority)
So what can we conclude today? One can’t overlook Assad’s atrocities and cruelty. At the same time, assessing the rebels may not yield better expectations. The civil war keeps going back and forth so our currents opinions could be proven wrong. We won’t know for sure until the war is completely over.
What do you think might end the Syrian conflict?