Columns / Discourse / January 16, 2013

World Politics Corner: Can we just admit that nobody cares about Syria?

The Syrian conflict has been going on for almost two years now (with the second anniversary falling on March 15) and there has still been little to no definitive action.  While some nations vow to help fund opposition forces, for various reasons some groups are already being labeled as terrorists, or extremists before the country has even been won.  The Arab League issues statement after statement, which is practically all they have done for years, with a government unwilling to negotiate peace or reforms.  The United Nations is also happily condemning this and that.  And child refugees are suffering some of the coldest weather they’ve faced, and many are dying from very common illnesses.

Now, of course, with two wars, the current escalation of armed forces in Mali, Pakistan’s 50 year game of perpetual protests, the weird phenomenon of Kony 2012(of Tony 2012, whichever you prefer), and current economic woes, who really has time for all that?

At the end of the day self-interest rules and there is nothing to win over in Syria.  The fact that the country is at war with itself already prevents it from being a so-called puppet of Iran.  Israel has done well with Bashar Al-Assad and risks more with a new government, just as the change in Egypt has shown them.

So, really, no one — I mean no government — really cares what will happen.  And, quite frankly, this isn’t a surprise to anyone.  If this is a surprise, just recall “Ubeki-beki-beki-stan-stan” and you’ll figure it out .

Republican primary candidate Herman Caine actually is very articulate in his point: “Knowing who is the head of these small, insignificant states around the world, I don’t think is focusing on National Security…”

Hear that Uzbekistan? Small and insignificant states.  There are times (some could say many) where things happen, bad things happen, and no one cares to do anything about it.  It’s not a high and mighty thing, in most cases it is very pragmatic: why give my resources/time and get nothing out of it?  We follow this rule on an individual basis too; just ask anyone who has ever tabled in the Seymour Gallery.

On a global scale, foreign aid isn’t an altruistic thing.  For instance, the Eisenhower Doctrine extended military aid to Lebanon back in the day to prevent it from falling to communism.  Well Lebanon isn’t communist, actually it has no real government — if you ask some of my Lebanese friends, anyway — infrastructure and other normal things are a mess, and every now and then there’s an assassination or war.  Lebanon is kind of a mess but who cares?

Many of the countries we now “care about” used to be ones we didn’t: no one cared about Pakistan’s ongoing struggle with poverty or India till it got nukes, no one cared about the Taliban making women’s lives hell in Afghanistan until 9/11, no one cared about Iran’s political woes until the Green Revolution and then we continued not to care about them until the nuke threat.

And people probably still don’t care about Uzbekistan … I’m sure we could list a number of countries no one cares about.  Actually, we could probably just point at random on a world map.

Again, it’s pragmatic.  I’d just like someone, just one politician somewhere, to come out and say it.  It might be beneficial for the world to know what Syrians are really up against, and it’s not just Assad.

Rana Tahir
Rana Tahir is a political columnist for The Knox Student, primarily covering international issues. She will graduate in June 2013 with degrees in political science and creative writing, after which she will attend the University of Denver's publishing institute.

Tags:  Eisenhower Doctrine Pakistan syria Uzbekistan

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Rana Tahir
Rana Tahir is a political columnist for The Knox Student, primarily covering international issues. She will graduate in June 2013 with degrees in political science and creative writing, after which she will attend the University of Denver's publishing institute.




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  • http://whentheelephantsfight.wordpress.com Tom Courtright

    For the most part, a lot of this makes sense. Yes, countries act largely out of self-interest in most situations. After all, why would Australia act out of concern for Palestinian refugees in Syria, unless Australia had a particularly strong Palestinian lobby?

    But using the phrase ‘no one cares’ makes it sound like a playground brawl with disinterested authorities standing by. Syria is in a Civil War; at this stage, what could America, or most other Western powers, practically do that wouldn’t run a huge risk of future destabilization? The calculation in most of the West, as regards the larger Arab uprisings, is that it is best that they are fought out by the people there, that they reclaim their country for themselves. But local politics are not so uninvolved.

    Israel, having constantly faced opposition from ME countries, long ago decided a friendly/lame dictator was the best to deal with. Iran and Saudi Arabia are now actively involved in Syria; many rebels are directly funded by Saudi Arabia, some trained in Turkey. Iran’s elite al-Quds force has several hundred members in the country. We are not needed, and have too many other things to worry about to get involved.

    I excuse none of this, I’m merely trying to explain their thought process beyond a simplistic cynicism. Interventionism is key here. Let’s avoid that; instead, focus on helping refugees in Jordan and Turkey, and get involved with the Saudis, to discover exactly whom they are funding. We are not world police. The best possible course, in my opinion, is for America to throw it’s weight behind multilateral approaches, to empower the Arab League and get UN Peacekeepers into Turkey.

  • Rana

    Hi Tom. We are essentially saying the same thing: no one is going to do something if they are not interested in the outcome.

    From the article: “There are times (some could say many) where things happen, bad things happen, and no one cares to do anything about it. It’s not a high and mighty thing, in most cases it is very pragmatic: why give my resources/time and get nothing out of it?”

    The only difference is you bring up a second question that I thought was irrelevant to my article: what could any power do? (Since I’m saying they won’t do anything, it seemed pointless to ask what they could do.)

    Your suggestion about America throwing its weight behind a group is more interventionist than anything I propose in the column (partly because I don’t propose any form of action).

    Ideally, the US (or any country, interested or not) shouldn’t even (in my opinion) throw weight behind any group. This is a Syrian civil war and needs to be decided by Syrians.

    (With many ME countries paranoid about the West, any US endorsement may have the opposite effect anyway.)

    Thanks for your comment, I enjoy reading your columns!



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