CommunityThe Bullpen

Juxtaposing Libya and Syria

Let’s look at the two major conflicts in the Arab uprising. In Libya, the rebels have taken Zawiya and the tide does seem to be turning in the civil war. Foreigners in Tripoli are being evacuated and the rebel leadership is already looking at the post-Gadhafi era. That story began with Western powers calling for Moammar Gadhafi’s ouster and then intervening with planes and drones.

In Syria, after five months of brutality, just this week the Presidents of America and key European countries finally called on Bashar al-Assad to resign. And Assad has responded to this by continuing to order his security forces to fire on civilian protesters.

Thousands of Syrians took to the streets across the country on Friday calling for the downfall of President Bashar al-Assad, keeping up the pressure in the five-month-old uprising a day after an alliance of nations led by the United States publicly called on him for the first time to step down and toughened sanctions against his government. At least 18 people were reported killed, including some soldiers who disobeyed orders to shoot at protesters […]

Activists and residents reached in Syria reported shooting in several areas across the country, despite Mr. Assad’s assertion two days earlier that all military operations against the opposition had ended. They said that 15 demonstrators were killed in the southern Dara’a Province, where the first protests began five months ago after security forces arrested and tortured high school students caught scrawling antigovernment graffiti on walls.

Among the dead in Dara’a were five army soldiers who refused to open fire on protesters, according to the Local Coordination Committees, a group of activists who document and organize protests. They also said that two people died in the suburbs of Damascus when their demonstrations came under fire and that one was killed in Homs, Syria’s third-largest city, where some of the biggest demonstrations against the government of Mr. Assad have occurred.

Soldiers refusing to shoot at protesters is a new developments, but as you can see, other soldiers were not above firing on those dissenters.

Many can ask the question why Libya and not Syria. The answer the Administration has given is that the protest movement has made it clear that they wish no foreign intervention, and that they are respecting those wishes. The protesters have been explicit on this front.

And yet, when you’re an American President, and you say that a dictator must go, you put yourself in a difficult position. It’s the right position morally above merely ignoring the situation. But it’s a tricky position geopolitically.

I would argue that this is due to past interventions which were completely unwise. Seeing restraint in Syria, amid a rejection by the nominal allies of any foreign presence, is admirable. But the juxtaposition of this and the intervention in Libya is undeniable, and it spins people off into figuring out justifications for one and not the other. It becomes a slippery slope to eventual action, and it puts the US in this terrible position.

Meanwhile the UN is is sending a humanitarian mission. So there’s that.

Previous post

Perry already has the numbers and 2012 isn't even here yet

Next post

Perry or O. Firing squad or Indefinite detention?

David Dayen

David Dayen