The conflict in Syria is a disaster for the Syrian people with no end to their suffering in sight. The civil war has devastated much of Syria. In addition, neighboring nations are involved through their recruiting, funding and arming of terrorist opposition forces. As a result, Syria is now facing the same threat of division and unending violence as are Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan and Somalia — other nations the U.S. and its allies have targeted.
The U.S. role in the Syrian tragedy is mostly overlooked. For example, the U.S. and allies such as Saudi Arabia and Israel have long wanted to oust Syrian President Bashir Assad. This U.S. goal was openly discussed back in 2005 in an interview with him by CNN host Christiane Amanpour. In late March 2007, McClatchy News reported the Bush administration had instituted a campaign months earlier to isolate and embarrass Assad. Some officials feared that the campaign's goal was to destabilize Syria and possibly to overthrow the Syrian leader.
By 2011, there was legitimate opposition to President Assad's economic and human rights policies. In addition, an unprecedented drought had caused enormous suffering in rural areas, further increasing anger against Assad. People began nonviolent protests, and the Assad administration reacted forcibly against them. The conflict quickly became very violent.
The U.S. did little to prevent Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey from getting involved in what was quickly becoming a sectarian conflict. By August 2012, a U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency report warned that "events are taking a clear sectarian direction," and that the "the "Salafist(s), Muslim Brotherhood and AQI (al-Qaeda in Iraq)" were "the major forces driving the insurgency."
Despite this warning, the U.S. did little to rein in its allies and thus allowed the situation to worsen. Adding to the chaos, ISIS — a violent sectarian group — entered Syria. Further complicating the crisis, Russia and Iran entered the conflict to support Syrian sovereignty.
Potentially making matters worse for the Syrian people, many armchair quarterbacks inside the Washington Beltway are calling for greater U.S. military involvement, including "targeted military strikes" against Assad's government. These geniuses think that more illegal U.S. bombing is the answer. These geniuses also seem unaware that additional U.S. violations of Syrian air space run the risk of sparking a confrontation with Russia, a nuclear power and strong supporter of Syrian sovereignty.
Three points are clear. Military means are not the answer and the outside forces have their own interests and don't care about Syrian suffering. Unfortunately, the current sectarian nature of the fighting has created long-lasting enmity that doesn't bode well for the future.
The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center's "Peace Train" runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.