The West’s Comprehension Problems

As the civil war in Syria intensifies, we have less of an understanding of the “Arab Spring” and what kind of forces stand behind it. Usually, an armed conflict is the result of the oppression of a people by a totalitarian regime or due to a difficult economic situation. The “Arab Spring” attempted to present itself as a spring of democracy in the Arab world. Dictators were to be deposed in light of a new democratic movement which was to express the desire of the people.

In Syria, the initial rebellion against the Bashar Assad was in a way against the Assad family legacy, which had much blood in its hands. In the early 1980s, Haffetz Al-Assad was responsible for the slaughter of between 50,000 and 100,000 of his own citizens in Al-Hama. However, these horrible acts did not result in a general uprising of the people against the dictator, and the world did not cry out in opposition against this act of violence.

Despite the atrocities of Al-Hama, Turkey gave an outstretched hand to Syria in attempts to mediate a peace treaty between Syria and Israel, an expression of Turkey’s deep friendship with Syria. Upon the passing of Haffetz Al-Assad, Europe accepted with open arms his son Bashar Al-Assad, the eye doctor who studied in the West, viewing him as a promising new type of Arab leadership who would lean Westward and even initiate democratic reforms. It is obvious now how these great hopes ended, as the West is now pinning its hopes on the rebels.

In 1973, following the Yom Kippur War, an article was published by the Syria Defense Minister Mustafa Tlass, who praised one of the Syrian soldiers for heroic acts in battle. This soldier was granted a prize of honor for his horrific acts of killing a Zionist soldier with his own hands, opening the soldier’s head, and eating his brain. The son of Mustafa Tlass is the same general who recently defected the Syrian army and joined the rebels’ forces. And with his defection, the story of cannibalism returned, as a rebel soldier performed the same horrendous act on a soldier of the Syrian army.

In Libya, the ouster of Qaddafi was facilitated by Western forces, resulting in ongoing tribal warfare with the involvement of various Islamic extremist groups. Indeed, Qaddafi’s ouster did not result in anything that resembles democracy. Massive amounts of weaponry have been spread among various terrorist groups in the region, like pus that oozes out of a wound.

When examining the facts of recent event, we can see that the West refuses to pass judgment on the real guilty parties in the Middle East. The West itself established artificial states, granted them weaponry and budgets, impossible borders which include variant tribes and sects. It should be no surprise that these arrangements are blowing up in their faces, as they look for guilty parties.

Alongside the civil war in  Syria, Iraq, which the West attempted to rebuild, is also still bleeding. It has become clear that Syria, nor Iraq, nor Lebanon, can be expected to form a functioning democracy or modern economy. This is the pattern across the Middle East and North Africa. For example, the last democratic elections in Algeria led to Islamist rule, a government which was soon deposed by an army coup, and the bloody civil war continues.

Despite the ongoing chaos and violence, the West is hungry for some kind of achievement in the region. However, the complex nature of sectarian and tribal alliance and shifting balance of power in the Middle East has resulted in the West quickly altering alliances based on hypocritical interests. The West continuously winks at each side with a different eye, while the number and breadth of victims only increase. The West chooses to both get involved and not get involved, prop up a leader and then assist in tearing him down, unsure who to support and who to oppose.

A Jewish sage once stated that he was neither afraid of the “Tzodkim” (a religious Jewish sect), nor of the “Prushim” (an opposing Jewish sect), but only of the hypocrites who acted to cheat both sides. With this in mind, there is a need to examine the motivations of the Western powers who support various forces in our region, ostensibly based on the principles of democracy, although they do not actually believe that real democracy can be achieved.

About the Author
Dr David Altman is senior vice-president at the Netanya Academic College and vice-chair of the college's Strategic Dialogue Center