I am in a unique position to comment about Syria – about our utter failure to act in any meaningful and help way – and about, in a greater sense, the message that very lack of action will send to other places that have recently seen revolution, such as Ukraine and Egypt.
In both Ukraine and Egypt, I was on the ground during the protests. I have friends in both areas, friends who were highly involved in the revolutions. I saw the state of each nation, I spoke with and tried to understand the voice of their people. I wrote extensively about my time in Ukraine (here), and at the time I wrote about my experience in Egypt as well for Gap Adventure Tours, now GAdventures (sadly, the blog post I wrote about the Egyptian revolution has long since been taken down).
My point is this: I may not hold a degree in international relations, but I, more than 99.99% of the Amercian population, know what it’s like. What it’s like to have inhabited pre-revolutionary Egypt, or what it was like to wake up one day to tanks, rubber bullets, and the realization that nothing can be as it once was. I know how deeply the dream of freedom is cherished, and how fragile a thing is hope.
And it is with this understanding that I write about Syria.
It makes no sense to me that we Americans talk of helping Syrian refugees but yet we take no military action to help solve the underlying issue. There doesn’t even seem to be the slightest interest or thought put into how to handle the Syrian crisis. Putin sends in planes – ostensibly to protect Assad – but at least he is doing something! He’s siding with a brutal dictator and that’s not the answer, but at least perhaps he can bring some stability to the region, enough stability so that another 250,000 civilians will not die, and millions more can begin to rebuild their lives.
It’s as if domestic squabbles over legal abortion and the upcoming election are more important to lawmakers and politicians than the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. Which is, quite frankly, disgusting. I understand that Obama, along with the upcoming presidential candidates, don’t want to talk about or be involved in military action because it’s a controversial and complicated topic. It’s not an “easy talking point” but for the love of God, take action before it’s too late!
The Syrian people began the revolution mainly because they wanted a democratic society or at the very least a society that afforded them freedom and opportunity similar to that in the West. But if the world’s Western democratic societies will not help Syrians in their struggle, and choose to turn a blind eye to their suffering, who can blame them for choosing another alternative? It’s either IS (religious extremists) or a brutal dictator (Assad) but to many people starving and being murdered, any order is preferable to none. If we want to turn our backs because it’s too “complicated”, we do so at our own peril. What message does that send to other countries that have recently seen political upheaval in search of democracy? Ukraine, Egypt….again, if we abandon those who look up to us and deny their suffering, who can blame them for siding with the group most willing to help them survive?
One can only take so much neglect. When the Middle East and when Ukraine turned to us with idealism and with hope and said – “We believe in your dream, we believe in your message, we believe in human rights and dignity!” – and when their friends and neighbors and lovers began to die or disappear, the brave people of these countries still said: “We believe”. In the face of other options – being bought out, becoming religious zealots, giving in to another dictator – the majority said no. And to this day, the millions of migrants flooding Europe are still screaming – “We believe in freedom, in democracy, in human rights.” And how do we answer? With silence. With closed borders. With xenophobia. How loudly must someone claim the dream we sell before we are willing to offer assistance? How strong must a voice be to matter? Again – how much neglect can one take before they turn Eastward to Putin, seemingly the only superpower willing to even listen? And rue the day they turn inward and find the ears of IS.
I worry for this world – for Syria, for Ukraine, for Egypt, and for America. This a plea for action. I can only hope it is one day heard.