A Syrian fighter climbs atop rubble after an air force strike in Azaz. (Reuters/Goran Tomasevic.)
Hawks, neoconservatives, liberal interventionists and others—truth be told, in Washington, nearly everyone except President Obama himself—seems to want to get involved militarily in Syria. The latest bugaboo: WMD. Haven’t we heard that someplace before? Say, ten years ago?
The latest to weigh in is Michael Singh of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who, in recent testimony to Congress, waxed eloquent about the moral and humanitarian reasons for the United States to entangle itself in yet another Middle East war:
“In the Syrian civil war we see a confluence of moral imperative and strategic interest; where so often these impulses conflict, here they coincide. The moral case for action is clear—the United Nations has asserted that 70,000 civilians have been killed in Syria since March 2011, and almost four million, out of a population of twenty-two million, forced from their homes, about 1.2 million of whom have fled Syria entirely. These numbers overwhelm comprehension, yet still fail to convey the full extent of Syrians’ suffering.”
Syrians may indeed be suffering, but a great deal of the suffering is due to the predatory and repressive actions by the Syrian rebels themselves, increasingly dominated by the radical-extremist Al Nusra Front.
The Washington Post, to its everlasting credit, ran a scary piece by Liz Sly about the rebels in “liberated” (i.e., rebel-occupied) Syria, imposing Taliban-like laws and punishments. One man, typical of many others, was beaten with a metal pipe. Writes Sly, worth quoting at length:
The beating administered last month offered a vivid illustration of the extent to which the Syrian revolution has strayed from its roots as a largely spontaneous uprising against four decades of Assad family rule. After mutating last year into a full-scale war, it is moving toward what appears to be an organized effort to institute Islamic law in areas that have fallen under rebel control.
Building on the reputation they have earned in recent months as the rebellion’s most accomplished fighters, Islamist units are seeking to assert their authority over civilian life, imposing Islamic codes and punishments and administering day-to-day matters such as divorce, marriage and vehicle licensing.
Numerous Islamist groups are involved, representing a wide spectrum of views. But, increasingly, the dominant role is falling to Jabhat al-Nusra, also known as the al-Nusra Front. The group has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States for suspected ties to al-Qaeda but is widely respected by many ordinary Syrians for its battlefield prowess and the assistance it has provided to needy civilians.