Supposedly a great American philosopher once said, “When you come to the fork in the road, take it.” There is much wisdom in this. In Hashem’s infinite wisdom He blessed humanity with free will. Decisions come in two categories: choices between opposites and choices between equivalents.
The easier decision to make is between good and bad — this is a no-brainer. Decisions start getting difficult when the choices are similar; good compared to good; bad compared to bad. How bad can a choice be when both options are good? In either case it’s still good. The real problem is when we compare bad to bad. The outcome can be bad or very bad.
And that is what we here in Israel, and for that matter the rest of the world, face as the consequence of choosing which side to support in Syria. Talk about a choice between bad and bad! The case in Syria offers rebels embodying (or disembodying) cannibalistic evil versus a ruling tyrannical mass murderer. And all of this is occurring around the corner at Israel’s previously quiet northeastern border.
It is impossible to sympathize with Syria’s ruler Bashar al-Assad, the butcher-tyrant, and his loyalists from the Alawite religious minority. Rooting for a totalitarian dictator who values his regime’s prominent role in the radical Iran-Syria-Hizbullah axis and arms and uses Iran’s Hizbullah mercenaries to massacre thousands upon thousands of civilians is unthinkable. Despite the obvious benefit of deposing the Assad regime and irreparably damaging the axis of evil, it is, on the other hand, unthinkable to root for rebels who have engaged in cannibalism, and in reprisal massacres and serve as Al-Qaida’s militia in the region.
You may justifiably wonder, “Wouldn’t it be better if they just wiped each other out?”
Probably not. Nature abhors a vacuum, and there will be fanatical religious movements ready to fill the void as they have done throughout the nightmare of the Arab Spring, unimaginably making the already horrible somehow worse.
The Syrian Civil War began in 2011 on the 15th of March. (“Beware the Ides of March,” historically an ominous day for insurrection.) The desire to overthrow Assad, a despised Arab ruler, followed the familiar arc of the Arab Spring: Ordinary people took to the street in a popular revolt against a dictator while the West watched, and then the revolt diverged into acts of atrocities committed by both the rebels and the government.
The fall of Assad’s ruling government has been predicted as imminent by “experts” for most of the last two years. Israel’s former Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, by my count, stated at least four times over the first year of the revolt that the fall of the Syrian government would occur in three months. The civil war is now in its third year, with no end in sight. And it appears that Assad has regained a slight advantage due to support from Russia, which instead of using its leverage to move President Assad toward a negotiated solution, chose to provide Syria with advanced weaponry. There is talk of Russia arming Syria with even more weapons both qualitatively and quantitatively.
In a morally neutral, realpolitik evaluation, strong arguments can be made in favor of supporting either side by calculating the lesser of two evils, as neither side offers anything good. The principal arguments in removing Assad from power are destroying the Iran-Syria-Hizbullah axis of evil, effectively cutting off the pipeline of weapons reaching Hizbullah, Israel’s terrorist nation-state nemesis to the north, thereby reducing or at least postponing a third Lebanese War, and weakening Iran’s regional influence.
The argument for supporting Assad is based on the idea, “Better the evil you know than the evil you don’t.” Choosing Assad negates the worst downside of Jihadist militias running the country. Syria after Assad would be in complete chaos, precisely the atmosphere in which radical Islamist groups flourish. Syria’s Arab Spring would be significantly worse than what occurred in Tunisia, Egypt, or Libya, because its internal divisions and sectarianism are more profound.
The Alawites, just over 10 percent of Syria’s population, have ruled the country politically and dominated the upper echelons of the military and industry for nearly 50 years. The majority Sunni population harbors an intense hatred of them, not only due to the Alawite stranglehold on control but because the Alawite faith is considered doubly cursed by Sunnis as a heretical offshoot of the heretical Shia Islam. If the Sunni rebels were to gain control of the country, genocide would occur, though in truth that is a probability regardless of who wins. The rebels winning would undoubtedly have immediate repercussions for Israel, as they have promised that when they are done with Assad they will bring the battle to Israel, destroy the Zionist enemy and liberate the Temple Mount.
Assad also has garnered support by default due to the diet of the rebel leader Abu Sakkar, founder of the jihadist group Farouq Brigade. Sakkar, in a horrifying [image, is seen eviscerating and cannibalizing a] dead enemy while chanting, “Alla-hu akhbar (G-d is great).” In a clarifying remark bordering on the ridiculous, a spokesman from Human Rights Watch stated that eating the organs of one’s enemies necessarily involves multiple war crimes. Sakkar defended his actions and the descent into brutality as retribution for war crimes committed by Assad and his supporters. Though he is certainly right about government-sanctioned atrocities, it is difficult to muster sympathy for rebels led by a savage.
The north of Israel is beautiful and comfortable during the summer months, and my family was considering locations for a vacation the week before school resumes. My wife found the ideal place, a reasonably priced cottage nestled in the Golan Heights with views of the mountains and Syria.” Who wants a view of Syria? My attitude is, “If the Solomons can see Syria, Syria can see the Solomons.” Though I may not be able to conclude which side to choose in the Syrian civil war, one thing is clear. This summer we will vacation in the West Bank. It’s a lot safer.
Meir Solomon is a writer, analyst and commentator living in Alon Shvut, Israel, with his wife and two children. He may be contacted at msolomon@Hamodia.com.