While, over the course of this class, we have studied the resistance of the Middle East to foreign influence, it is important to know that there are sources of internal strife and conflict in the region as well. A prime example of this is the ongoing Syrian Civil War, or the Syrian Uprising. For those of you who are not aware, since the advent of the Arab Spring movement of 2011, specifically April/March of 2011, there has been open and armed conflict in Syria. It is important for us as American students to understand this conflict, because it shows that Muslims do not only fight and have a distaste for corrupt foreign influences, but also internal threats to their ways of life and their powers in government. This particular conflict was caused by many different factors but, for the most part, the main issue is that the indigenous population is fed up with the oppressive actions of the Ba’ath Party, specifically President Bashar al-Assad. However, in order to fully understand the conflict that we know today, we need to first know where this history of oppression and discontent began.
In January, the UN announced that the death toll in this conflict had exceeded over 60,000 total and that the majority of human rights abuses were on the side of the established government in both gravity and scale. In short, the death toll of this unmitigated conflict is getting very large and most of the outright slaughter is being performed on the behalf of the government not the revolutionaries. Looking this fact dead in the face it is easy to see that the political party in power, meaning the Ba’ath party, has no qualms with slaughtering it’s own people to remain in power. As to the beginnings of the revolution, the argument can be made that this was an inevitable outcome, due to the highly oppressive nature of the Syrian government towards it’s own people. A good example of this oppressive nature can be seen even at the beginning of the rise to power of the Ba’ath Party.
In 1964, the Ba’ath Party, in a coup d’etat, seized power of the Syrian government. After a series of internal conflicts in 1966 up to 1970, resulting in the deaths of most of their original leaders, Hafez al-Assad, originally a defense minister, seized power and the Syrian people have been under very strict military control ever since, approximately 50 years. This military control resulted in a government that cared little about human rights in favor of strict and total control of the Syrian populace. Given these facts and their implications, the question I choose to ask is this: Why have we, The United States, not gotten involved up to this point? It seems to me that, more than economic profit, more than the spreading of democracy in the Middle East, the need to have a value for human life and a refusal to tolerate a government slaughtering it’s own people should be enough to prompt us to action. Perhaps the more astonishing part of our non-involvement is that humans rights violations akin to what we are seeing now are not a new thing to the Syrian populace, in fact this has been going on, over and over, for about five decades. Perhaps it is my lack of understanding of the nature of or motivations that drive war and conflict, but it seems to me that coming to the aid of a historically repressed people, especially when they are fighting and being killed by their government for their right to choose their government, is a much more noble and clandestine venture than going to war in the Middle East for economic profit, which is our current history in the region. As an additional note, this would also be a much easier way of making allies in the region as well. In essence, it is good to see Muslim people fighting to free themselves of the yolk of oppression, however I really wish the US government would mean what it says when it comes to the goals it says it is trying to achieve by being a military force in the Middle East.