Daily images of massacres of Syrian civilians — women and children included — headline news outlets across the west. The civil war has been going on for over a year. Tens of thousands have died. Yet Western leaders sit on their hands and issue powerless statements. Sticks and stones will destroy cities but words will never save them. The west is hamstrung by illegitimacy.
Russia, long wont to rebuff the democratic system in favor of its current nepotistic capitalism, is not on board to remove Assad, Syria’s tyrant. They see him as their last ally in the Mediterranean, and do not want to send a signal to their population that if you rebel enough against a dictator that the world doesn’t like, they will come to your rescue. If the Russians started to fight against Putin and his regime, to the outsiders it would look eerily similar to Syria and Libya. Therefore, Russia does not even issue strong-worded statements against Assad. It is this, and China’s unwillingness to get into anyone else’s business at all, that limit what the world can do.
But the truly limiting factor is battle fatigue. America is trying its best to get out of Middle Eastern conflicts. Obama, facing stiff competition for the November election, can’t afford to risk starting a conflict that gets drawn out more than a matter of weeks. Syria is much better armed than Libya was, and is connected to nearby Iran via supply routes. European countries that would’ve taken the lead, like France under Sarkozy, have been steadily recalibrating their military budgets and thus their ambitions too. Literally no one can afford to foot the bill that air support and possible further combat operations would demand.
Every time another atrocity comes to light against the people of Syria who have endured dictatorial rule from the Assad family for their entire lives, people hope that it marks a turn in the way the greater world powers might operate. Each time this happens, no one steps up to the plate.
The Arab spring has changed the Middle East and Northern Africa for the better, and there is no reason that the world should not start to immediately help the Syria rebels. Obama is afraid of the negative outcomes of starting another war. But he shouldn’t be, just as in Libya, America could provide support while leaving the major operations to NATO. Not only would it send a clear message to Moscow that suffering people will be helped, but it would end the conversation that enables disagreement in the first place. It would be unlikely for Russia to cock their guns to be dragged into a conflict against the rest of the world over such a small friend. Putin might be crazy, but he knows a thing or two about survival.
Alas, there will probably be no major action until an unusual power steps out of its shell: Turkey. With size and strength, Turkish forces should set up humanitarian buffer zones along its border with Syria to allow the Free Syria Army to organize, and perhaps become armed. If necessary, Turkish forces could protect aid routes to different points in the country. As the Tunisians did for the fleeing Libyans and rebels, the Syria resistance needs a safe place to avoid being destroyed and to move fighting out of civilian-populated urban zones. There is too much blood on the ground to hope that this dies down by itself.