Look what the cat refused to drag in, someone wittier than yours once said. To touch on Syria with a ten foot barge pole is to set oneself up for controversy or worse: ridicule. So keep it light, and you might be able to persuade yourself folks are laughing at your jokes. Or better yet, don’t talk about it at all. As famous cat-ignorer Erwin Schrödinger knew, if you ignore a thing hard enough, you don’t have to worry about it being alive or otherwise. Way cheaper than buying cat food or cleaning out the litter box, and certainly more convenient than pondering the lives and/or death of one hundred thousand people. You know, human beings.
Feline torture enthusiast Schrödinger also knew that two things, seemingly mutually exclusive, can be true at the same time. The glass is half full; but the glass is half empty. I am a brilliant scientist; but a terrible pet owner. Or, and this is where things get hair-ball-y: The Syrian opposition is fighting to save a country from genocidal tyranny; but the Syrian opposition, a ragtag of reluctant democrats, armed teens, and wild-eyed Al-Qaeda affiliates are tearing asunder an ethnically diverse, secular haven led by an occasionally stern patriarch with a lisp holding firmly against imperialist threats.
Which is it? Should the casual observer resign to flipping a coin? Shall we look away and assume the cat always lands on its feet? How does one call heads or tails on such an animal? What was God thinking? Better yet, what was he smoking? And where can I get some?
In early 2011 a bunch of school kids spray-painted the Egyptian revolutionary slogan on a wall in Daraa, Syria: “The people want to topple the regime.” The children were arrested and beaten by government goons. Subsequent protests were brutally repressed, evoking ever-wider demonstrations, and increasing government atrocities to the point where Gandhi himself would have considered raising his voice ever so slightly. And thus, popular protests slowly, surely, but most of all bloodily, became a civil war.
This is Miaow.
Two and a half years later oddly-whiskered Bashar Al-Assad is banking on his buddies in Iran, their Hezbollah baddies in Lebanon, oh, and Russia for weapons, cash, and boots. The noble Syrians meanwhile, gunning for freedom, economic opportunity equal to that of the president’s ethnic minority, and the right not to be gunned down for wanting those things, have awoken to awkward bed partners indeed, thinking: Where are my clothes? What time is it? And: Who the fuck are these clowns?
Proxy and the Banshees.
Saudi-Arabia, ever the champion of universal suffrage, is weighing in. Ostensibly bored of funding every reactionary madrassa from Lahore to Casablanca since the fifties, Osama Bin Laden’s exploits in Afghanistan, and as recent as last year squashing a democratic uprising in neighboring Bahrain, the house of Saud discovered they should now support Syrian democracy. With a straight face. Qatar; the military powerhouse you never suspected, Turkey, and the United States are all rooting for people power as well. Ish. Wikipedia still calls it a civil war. Which is true. But it’s fast become a proxy war too: A conflict where outsiders pick your country to fight each other directly or cajole and arm others what they haven’t the cajones to do themselves. Sometimes entire countries are invented merely to serve that exact purpose, but let us not drag Belgium into this.
I can haz warz?
It sounds good. Perhaps a little too good. Bomb the evil, chemical weapons-wielding dictator. Not much. Just a little. Just enough to take out his air force, a few tanks here and there, otherwise known as his strategic advantage over the opposition. Nit-pickers can debate why wait until a hundred thousand folks have died to get upset about the latest one thousand just because the particular method carries an eerie historic connotation. Fair point. All these things are true. We should have done something then, and we should do something now.
At peril of stating the obvious, it is clear all of the interested parties have a thing or two to win or lose. However with an ever-growing list of participants, is it reasonable to expect a predictable outcome if the ante is upped, after the Washington surgeon strikes with all the precision of three hundred Hummers falling from the skies? Will Syrians be better off when Assad, thusly needled, is left in place, only angrier?
Doing something about a war shouldn’t mean having a bit more war and hope –fingers crossed- at the end you have a lot less war.
International affairs haven’t changed much from, say, 1914. It’s a very lightly supervised kindergarten. Obama doesn’t trust the ex-KGB guy. Putin simply doesn’t like black people and besides, is way too busy looking for his shirt. Iran can’t play because, you know, they have beards. Assad has a funny moustache. Meanwhile the meat machine grinds and grinds.
A declaration of war.
They know you went on that porn website yesterday. They know you ‘liked’ that video that claimed 9/11 was an inside job. They know you love funny cat videos. What they cannot do is stop you from doing any of the above. The Internet is a weapon of much distraction. It should be. No one needs to stay angry twenty four seven. It only takes a minute or two. Thanks to the Internet I know exactly which weapons manufacturer is financed by my bank (www.banktrack.org). I have emailed/Facebooked/Tweeted, and they have felt obliged to spend time and resources responding. We are finding out which politicians are wined and dined by those merchants of death. We have unprecedented access. You have no excuse not to fight back. All it takes is a keyboard, and they are cheaper than ever. It takes a minute or two to tell your politicians: “Put that thing back in your pants.” These two things are true at the same time: There are billions of us. We are nice, but we are going to cut your dick off.