Before I go any further, I shall lay my cards on the table.
Syria, for me, is personal. As I predict this post could reach farther
than most, I need go no further, but suffice it to say that my connections
there go deep, and are multi-faceted. Diverse, even. That said, I am no expert:
My time in Syria has been minimal, and my studies of the country academic. In
fact, in Damascus I sometimes found it difficult to reconcile my friends'
horror stories of abuse and torture with the beautiful calm city I fell in love
with, and yet, their experiences are real, terrifying.
Therefore, when, last March, the first inklings of protest
arose, I was both excited for them and wary, knowing the complexities that
Syria's diversity-as well as its place in the world-presents. I did-and
do-support my friends who keep risking their lives to protest and report, take
photographs and videos, and speak to the press, and I will continue to do so.
There shall be no accusations of shabiha here.
So, with cards on the table, I speak. I am an observer of
tragedy, and the tragedy is not only the ruthless violence against the Syrian
people committed by the regime but also the polarization of commentators,
media, and of course (most importantly), Syrians. And as an observer, I would
like to talk about what I have observed these past few months; you might call
me naive, but surely I am not more naive than the hawks who are permitted to
write in respectable publications about Syria, only to compare it to Egypt or
call for intervention without serious consideration. Surely I am not as silly
as, say, Andrew Tabler, who in the New
York Times referred
to Druze as a "heterodox Shiite offshoot" or the Reuters journalist who thought
it pertinent to use a Texan
Christian website as a source for an article on what he called Syria's
"secretive, persecuted" Alawis.
So, grant me that.
I have spent nearly every day these past few months reading
opinion pieces on Syria. The obsession started for one reason: The US media,
namely the New York Times and the Washington Post, kept relying on the
same two Syrians-both based outside the country-for quotes, and it was
maddening. Meanwhile, global media wasn't much better. And so, reluctant to
pester my Syrian friends for opinions, I made it a point to read as many
opinions as possible.
What I found is equally frustrating. From opinionators on
Syria, be they Syrian or foreign, there are two dominating views: The first is
the viewpoint of the Syrian National Council (SNC), or farther right. This
"view area," so to speak, ranges from the precise position of the SNC in
calling for intervention, to the hawkish calls -- such as this
by Daniel Byman in Foreign Policy -- for
foreign intervention. The second dominant view comes from the anti-imperialist
crowd. By and large, the anti-imperialists have largely failed to denounce the
Assad regime, and those who have imply that any alternative is worse.