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Experts Weigh In On American Involvement In Syria

Sara Newman |
August 30, 2013 | 5:53 p.m. PDT

Associate News Editor

Syrian Independence Flag, photo via Creative Commons
Syrian Independence Flag, photo via Creative Commons

With issues as complex as those plaguing Syria right now, there is no easy way out. Despite all of the criticism that the United States has recently received for its action—or lack thereof—in Syria, few people have viable solutions to offer.

“The fact of the matter is that there is a dictator and this dictator is obsessed with the power so he will not simply let it go,” said Berj Boyajian, a USC Professor of Comparative Islamic Law who grew up in Syria. “Unfortunately as the saying in Arabic goes, 'There are many options and the sweet one is bitter.' There are no good options right now.”

For Americans, the human rights violations that have been going on under Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime are unthinkable. The very idea that he holds the title “president” completely violates American notions of what government should look like. Yet, Middle Eastern expectations and traditions are not the same as those in the United States, a fact that policymakers must remember when dealing with the situation in Syria. 

“These people have been in dictatorship since the world was created," explained Boyajian. “They do not have a tradition of free, democratic elections. It is a system built on power struggles. 

“Without a Los Angeles Times or a Washington Post to channel the public’s dissatisfaction and criticize the government," continued Boyajian, “the feelings of the people become secondary to what the military believes and does.”

Some people are concerned that American intervention in Syria could create more problems than it solves. As with any high stakes-political situation, experts warn that the American government must balance the danger of exacerbating the situation with the consequences of ignoring the blatant injustices.

“Although it is important to punish the Syrian government and deter its future use of chemical weapons,” said Richard Hrair Dekmejian, a USC Professor of political science, “the short and long-term consequences of a U.S. missile attack could produce blowbacks, exacerbating the dangers facing the Syrian people, the neighboring countries and U.S. interests.”

While few would say that the current state of involvement with Syria is ideal, many experts have been complimentary of the President’s cautious approach. 

“I expect [President Obama] to continue his efforts to obtain Congressional involvement in contrast to many of his predecessors," Dekmejian said. "I have been impressed with his careful, well-balanced and objective approach to decision-making regarding the present Syrian crisis and many other issues destabilizing the geopolitics of the Middle East.”

Critics, however, point out that any actions that the U.S. undertakes that would possibly be construed as supporting the rebels will lead to Russia and Iran pouring in more money or troops to support Assad. 

“I think that the solution will eventually be a peace between the powers in Syria,” explained Boyajian. “But that settlement won’t come until both parties are exhausted.” 

“Exhaustion will be faster if all foreign powers stop sending armies to Syria,” added Boyajian. “The fuel for the war is money and armies, and as long as allies on either side keep supplying funds or military support, this proxy war will continue to drag on.” 


Read more Neon Tommy coverage of Syria here.

Contact Associate News Editor Sara Newman here and follow her on Twitter.  



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