Recently the governments of both the United States and Great Britain have announced that they will offer aid to the rebels in Syria. While all western governments have fallen short of offering military aid or instituting a no-fly zone, the amount of involvement seems to be inching ever nearer to that goal.

Syria proposes a unique problem for the West. Assad is a dictator who has massacred and gassed his own people, and whose troops have tortured Syrian citizens. However, at the same time, the rebels are radical extremists. They are also cannibals.

Congressman Justin Amash expressed his belief that we should avoid involvement because “It’s very dangerous if we get in the habit of deciding who the good guys are and who the bad guys are.”

Prudence dictates that the Congressman is probably right in his conclusion, but there is a huge flaw in his reasoning. The problem with intervening in Syria is not that we can’t tell the good guys from the bad guys. Instead, it’s that anyone with even a partially functioning moral compass can tell that they are all bad guys. Black is obviously black. And here its also blacker than black.

It is apparent from the actions of both the dictator and the rebels that neither can exercise a legitimate claim to govern the Syrian people. This is hardly a question of which party is more democratic, and anyone who thinks it can be reduced to so simple a formula is naïve and has no business picking winners and losers.

Incidentally, it is ironic that the only world leader who even pays lip service to the plight of Syrian Christians is Vladimir Putin. This is hardly an excuse for his defense of Assad, but at least it’s a much more tangible, local, and realistic concern than those who claim that whoever is against a tyrant and for democracy must be the good guys.

This is a conflict that the United States is already too heavily involved in. Whatever justification existed for invading Iraq, it certainly doesn’t exist here. Syria poses no threat to the United States or its interests overseas. While Assad poses a threat to the rights of his people, if the rebels attain power they will no doubt pose a similar threat to the same people.

The only cure for the violence in Syria is a mass cultural renewal that we are ill equipped to provide. This is of course, in addition to the fact that our nation is still fatigued from the failure of the last war. If anything, the example of Iraq should show how us just how inept we are at exporting democracy and culture.

It is unfortunate that Assad is no doubt a tyrant, but the rebels are no doubt barbarians. The United States shouldn’t be in the business of empowering either.


Brian Miller | George Mason University | @BrianKenMiller