The civil war that has engulfed the nation of Syria for 10 years is entering its violent zenith. A war which began in 2011 amongst the turmoil of the Arab Spring has reached its final phase under an Arab Winter. The Baathist dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad found itself overwhelmed by protests in March 2011, which called for the removal of Assad and a reinstitution of democracy. Armed uprisings broke out soon afterward as protests were suppressed and Syria transformed into the Middle East’s most volatile region. The conflict has evolved into a proxy war with Russia, Iran and Hezbollah supporting Assad’s government while Turkey and the Western powers of the United States, France and Great Britain support some of the rebel groups. As the war winds down, the best course of action for the West to take with Syria would be non-interventionism.
Through this conflict, Syria has transmuted into a veritable hell on Earth. Indiscriminate killings, chemical attacks, genocide, famine, rape and torture are all too tragically common amidst the hellscape that now occupies the once prosperous state — a land where mankind is unleashed in its most brutal and sadistic form; a land of misery where upwards of 400,000 people have perished in the midst of total war. Syria is currently embroiled in one of the worst humanitarian disasters of the 21st century: as famine and violence tear apart the country, Syria has experienced a mass exodus of refugees. It will take a lot of time and money to rebuild Syria — the United Nations purports at least $250 billion will be needed — but hopefully this can be accomplished once the fighting ceases.
The man at the center of this war is of course Bashar al-Assad: The murderous dictator or savior of Syria depending on who you ask. Known as “The Lion” by his supporters, Bashar inherited the Arab Republic of Syria from his father Hafez. Hafez rose through the ranks of the Syrian Baathist party to eventually become president of Syria in 1970. The Baathist ideology of pan-Arabic socialism was also prevalent in Iraq under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. Bashar was never supposed to inherit his father’s fiefdom. However, after Bashar’s older brother Bassel died in a car crash in 1994, the aspiring ophthalmologist was first in line to lead Syria.
As the Arab Spring commenced, protests against Assad’s rule were crushed. Western media outlets reported the use of chemical weapons against protestors, a claim which Syria and their allies deny. This prompted calls for Assad to be removed from power by Western politicians, including President Obama. Getting involved in another regime change war in the Middle East after the disastrous invasion of Iraq would be idiotic. As the war draws to a close at Idlib, it is important to recognize that however brutal Assad is, he is the only force keeping Syria from falling into complete collapse. The once pro-democratic rebels have largely dissipated and the fighters holed up in Idlib are overwhelmingly jihadists. While I abhor dictatorships, the lesson we as Americans have learned from overthrowing Saddam Hussein is that sometimes the non-interventionist approach is the lesser of two evils. The removal of Assad at this point through foreign aggression would not only throw Syria into a freefall, but also prompt aggression from Assad’s allies Russia and Iran.
“the lesson we as Americans have learned from overthrowing Saddam Hussein is that sometimes the non-interventionist approach is the lesser of two evils.”
The writing is on the wall; Bashar al-Assad will win this war. The combination of Russian support for Assad’s government and the Western annihilation of ISIS has turned the tide of the conflict for the Syrian government. As Assad’s forces stand ready to finish off the rebels at Idlib, Westerners should recognize that this is not the end of Syria’s troubles. Assad will of course win his reelection in May, which may prompt calls from the more hawkish American politicians to depose him. The correct course of action would be non-interventionism, as deposing Assad would only destabilize Syria further. Much like Saddam Hussein, Bashar al-Assad is a Baathist dictator who silences dissent and rules with an iron fist. However, as was the case with Hussein, deposing such a figure would be like removing the glue from a sculpture that is barely kept together. Any action against Assad would be much like the disaster that followed the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the opening of a Pandora’s box that cannot be shut again. After this horrible war is over, Syria must be allowed to rebuild for the sake of its people, even if the reconstruction is under a man like Bashar al-Assad.