The world is watching with a sense of horror at events unfolding in Syria and Egypt. Just this past week in Syria there have been credible allegations of chemical weapons use against citizens. In Egypt, protesters have been killed in the streets of Cairo by their own military. Yet it seems that we in the West are powerless to act. Is this because we have lost, or one might say we never had, our moral compass? Is it because, in truth, as long as it doesn’t hurt us and our own immediate interests, we lose the moral will to help the underdog?
As a Jew and a supporter of Israel, I have a different perspective on this. Initially with the Syrian uprising it was easy to support the protestors, because all they wanted was Democracy, an end to the rule of a despot, and freedom of expression. But that pure and positive movement has been hijacked, and now those doing the bulk of the fighting and protesting are radical Islamists. These aren’t people who want to install a government of the people, by the people. Rather they want to implement a very rigid and retrograde type of Shariah law upon the entire population.
They have expansionist ambitions to impose their unenlightened, retrograde worldview upon the entire universe if given the chance. This is an ideology which wants to throw all of us back to the Dark Ages where women have no rights and heretics are burnt at the stake. It is this ideology and the people who represent it, that are the lead fighters against the al-Assad regime in Syria. It is this ideology that is staging sit-ins to reinstall President Morsi in Egypt.
There is no doubt that the al-Assad regime is no friend of Israel or the West, and neither frankly, is the Egyptian military. Both are corrupt, brutal, and thoroughly nasty. But the choice here is not between the good guy and the bad guy. The choice we have is between the bad guy and the face of evil itself. This is an evil that manipulates the pure human desire for freedom, democracy and self-determination, to install itself in power and then impose a form of oppression that is worse than anything experienced before. If we want to know why the West is dragging its feet and is in a moral quandary, these are the facts we need to consider.
So, while I am deeply pained by the images of women and children being killed by a ruthless dictator. Whilst I am sickened by seeing a military with all its powerful weaponry, crush a civilian protest — in this circumstance I am unable to identify with the oppressed. Because in this case, we know with absolute clarity that those who are now oppressed have an agenda to oppress others to a much higher degree. This has been clearly demonstrated with the Morsi government in Egypt, with the Ayatollahs in Iran, the former Taliban government in Afghanistan, and the varied Islamist regimes who gained a foothold of power in Africa. This puts us in the very uncomfortable position of having to stomach the brutality of the likes of al-Assad and General al-Sisi in Egypt.
Clearly, the gassing of women and children and the killing of innocent civilians in the street is abhorrent and repugnant to us. Yet, however hard it is to imagine, the Muslim Brotherhood or the Al-Qaeda types fighting Assad in Syria are a far worse alternative. This is the grim conundrum we now face, and our moral compass is getting jammed trying to figure it out.