To keep approaching a problem in the same manner and expecting a different result is often termed the quintessential definition of insanity. But what often goes lacking is what definition befits the scenario where an alternate approach to a problem is employed and yet the same undesirable result is still achieved. This can’t possibly be sanity … or is it?
For over 30 years now, the United States government has designated Syria a state sponsor of terror. For over 30 years, Syria has given the West no credible reason to challenge such an assertion.
In his speech to Congress before the invasion of Iraq, former President W. Bush forthrightly tagged Syria an indispensable fraction of the three-headed monster he labeled the Axis of Evil – alongside her Middle-Eastern counterparts: Iraq and Iran. The regime in Iraq has since fallen and no longer deserves such dubious moniker, while that in Iran continues to bask in unapologetic ignominy.
After numerous attempts to coerce the Assad dynasty in Syria into some sort of acceptable moral posture, the West thought it was time to employ a “common-sensical” approach – after all, if sticks are not working, carrots are bound to. Thereby pushing the earlier stated definition of insanity aside and embracing a “sane” approach to things.
When Bashar Al-Assad took over government 11 years ago, after the death of his father, many were giddy (and credibly so) to believe civility might eventually touchdown in Syria. Unlike his father Hafez Assad who murdered over 10,000 Syrian dissidents close to two decades earlier, Bashar seem to understand the indispensability of decency – leaders wishfully thought. After all, he’s a product of Western education and has seen firsthand the virtues of human freedom and dignity.
But as the years accumulated on Bashar’s presidency, his unbreakable tie to the shameful government in Iran and the terrorist outfit—Hezbollah—in Lebanon eerily became unshakable.
Still, the Obama administration thought what Assad needed was more cuddling; the Bush administration might have been too frightening in its attempt at cuddle. So Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lauded Assad as a reformer (with no iota of reform visible across the Syrian landscape) and other administration officials followed suite in their praise. Even President Sarkozy of France made him a guest of honor at a national ceremony commemorating human freedom.
But if we now know anything, Bashar is indeed the son of his father and no amount of Western exposure or cajoling can taint the blood that courses through his veins.
What is happening in Syria today has no other name but plain evil. That a 13-year-old boy (Hamza Ali al-Khateeb) would be abducted from a group of protesters, electrocuted, jaws and kneecaps shattered, beaten, burned, shot in both arms, penis cut off and his dead body returned to his family after a month speaks to an unfathomable satanic disposition that a million words cannot adequately quantify in this column.
As of today, according to the Turkish government, close to 9,000 Syrians have crossed the border into neighboring Turkey as they flee the scorched earth policy that Assad and his thugs have unleashed on Syrians.
Let it be clear: fear is no longer the incentive it was in Syria. If anything, it has become a disincentive; dissenting Syrians now know they are marked for death no matter what they do – Assad’s secret police now know their names and families. Syrians have reached a point of no return.
And I suppose some might claim that this is just a repeat of the events of February 2, 1982 when Hafez Assad gunned down thousands of Syrians who revolted in the town of Hama: Nothing happened then and nothing would happen now is the easy assumption. But times have changed, 1982 seem like the Stone Age compared to 2011. The revolutions we have witnessed throughout this Arab Spring were only forceful the way they were because of the power of technology. When Gaddafi knocked at the gates of Benghazi and was about to obliterate the city, Western powers assumed defensive positions because lives of brave and hapless Libyans have been streaming through our TV screens, Facebook and Twitter feeds. We could feel their pain and aspirations in real time.
Nations thousands of miles from one another other no longer have the deniability that they know not to what extent humanity is being pummeled in any location– technology has made such claims an inexcusable excuse. This is why Assad has refused to allow foreign press into Syria and has aptly clamped down on what images make it out of Syria.
We are now in “uncommon-sensical” territory as we have exasperated all the protocols common sense affords where Bashar al-Assad is concerned. Sticks and carrots used interchangeably have proved ruinous as the status quo has only become more entrenched. As President Obama said in his speech on the Middle East, President Assad must either lead the reform that must take place in Syria or get out of the way.
I seriously doubt Assad will do the latter — as evidenced by his continued brutal destruction of homes and lives in these past days. True, the UN cannot exercise the decisiveness it did when catastrophe confronted rebels in Libya. The ramifications of any military intervention in Syria might explode the already volatile atmosphere that persists in the region. But let us not kid ourselves; diplomacy is taking its final breath on the bed in which it lays in Syria. Diplomacy couldn’t stop Hitler despite the countless concessions he was given in attempts to stave off a holocaust. Coalition intervention in Syria might someday be necessary to prevent senseless mass loss of human life. It is an eventuality our leaders need to start preparing for – if they are not already – no matter how despicable and unsavory such a proposition might be.
Sure, nations like China will innately turn the blind eye – no one has ever expected one thuggish government to lecture another on the evils of decadence.
I bear no delusion that for real change to come to Syria, Syrians will have to bear the brunt of this struggle – as families across the land are presently doing. But the international community has a responsibility toward making sure aspirations of those who seek a just and free society are not snuffed out by a merciless few.
This much we owe ourselves.