2012 Commentary: United States and Other Countries Need to Do More to Help the Syrian Rebels

Abstract: Today, the United States and other countries reaffirmed their support for the Syrian rebels. However, these nations need to do more to help the rebels overthrow Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Map of Syria (1)
Representatives from more than 60 countries met yesterday in Turkey to discuss the Syrian crisis and to try to formulate some type of unified response. A Voice of America article states that the "Friends of Syria" conference produced some solid results. For instance, several of the participants, representing Gulf nations "will provide millions of dollars to the main opposition Syrian National Council to pay the salaries of rebels trying to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad." The United States meanwhile pledged to give another $12-13 million in humanitarian aid to the Syrian people, bringing its total contribution to $25 million. Importantly, the participants publicly demanded that Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad, cease hostilities and accept a U.N. backed peace plan. The decision by the U.S. and other countries to increase support to Syria's opposition is welcome news; however, it is not enough.

The United States, along with numerous other countries around the world, have pledged to support groups in the Middle East and in other places who are fighting to overthrow autocratic regimes. The United States in particular demonstrated strong support for the protests in Egypt that toppled Hosni Mubarak, and it intervened militarily in Libya. Since they have so strongly committed themselves to support democratic resistance movements, the United States and other, like minded nations have an obligation to do what they can to help the Syrian rebels overthrow Bashar al-Assad. So far, they have failed in this regard.

It is true that the United States has pledged to provide $25 million in humanitarian aid for Syria; however, according to The Daily Beast, that figure pales in comparison to the estimated $1 billion it spent to help the Libyan rebels overthrow Muammar Gaddafi. Other countries that played a prominent role in the Libyan campaign, like Germany and France, have been relatively silent with regards to Syria. Perhaps these nations are quietly supporting the Syrian rebels; however, their contributions (if any) in this instance do not compare to their past efforts.

As a Fox News story notes, some experts, including high ranking U.S. military leaders, urge caution in approaching the Syrian situation. They argue that the Syrian conflict is much more complex than the one in Libya and revolves more around religious differences between Sunni and Shiite Muslims than it does a civil war between supporters of democracy and an autocratic regime. While that may be true to some extent, per a news article in The Guardian, the Syrian situation cannot be much more complex than the one in Libya, which more closely resembles a confederation of tribes than it does a nation state.

Granted, the United States and other countries, which have pledged to support democratic movements, should approach the Syrian crisis with caution. An overhasty response might prove to be disastrous. With that said, they have had a year to ponder the situation and to construct a viable plan of action for aiding the Syrian rebels, yet these countries are still hesitant to intervene. The United States and others need to act more forcefully to help the forces trying to overthrow Bashar al-Assad if they hope to convince people living in other, autocratic regimes to rise up in the future.

1. Photographer/Owner: CIA
    March 27, 2005
    Title/Description: Map of Syria.
    Location/Permission: Wikimedia Commons - U.S. government document (click on the title/link
    (to see the map, credits, and permissions).

-- Anthony Hopper

#Syria #MiddleEast #war #UnitedStates #Obama #politics #opinion

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