Christoph Reuter writes: Western leaders — and German ones, in particular — have come up with countless reasons for not providing military support to Syrian rebels. But this just plays into the hands of Assad, who has nothing to win, but plenty to destroy.
Take a moment to imagine it the other way around: A Syrian dictator with a full beard — an Islamist harboring al-Qaida sympathies — has the Christian population of his country shot, starved and bombed, lets fanatical militias massacre non-believers and burns the country down to ashes. Were that the case, an alliance of Western nations would step up to intervene faster than you could say “Mali.”
Yet the people of Syria have been trying to rid themselves of a dictator for two years now. They spent months getting shot at while participating in peaceful demonstrations before they starting putting up violent resistance, and now they are facing a regime that intends to annihilate them. But it would seem that they’re simply out of luck.
The reason isn’t hard to see: Most of these rebels are Sunnis or, more broadly, Muslims. Many of them also have beards and shout “Allahu akbar” (as do the much smaller numbers of Ismailis, Druzes and Christians who fight alongside them). Sunnis also live in the areas that are being bombed almost daily when visibility is good.
Muslims rising up against their rulers to demand justice simply doesn’t fit into our worldview. Over the past decades, this view has been fed on news of the Taliban, of radical Islamist clerics preaching messages of hate, of “honor” killings, of battles over a Danish cartoon and of the events of 9/11. Held responsible for the sum total of all we have heard over the years, Syria’s Muslims are finding that the world views their struggle with suspicion and as just another attempt to establish a Muslim theocracy.
If they were Tibetans, you could bet things would be different. But, as is, Bashar Assad’s air force has been allowed to bomb with impunity. Scud missiles level entire city blocks, while Syria gradually empties out. Over 70,000 people have died in the conflict, and more than 1 million have fled the country. [Continue reading…]