Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Role Playing

Contrary to the claims that intervening in Syria will help elements of Al Qaeda that are part of the rebellion against Assad, Hannah Stewart argues that doing nothing actually Strengthens Al Qaeda:

Today, in the Syrian conflict, the graphic videos of last month's chemical weapons attack in Damascus are shocking the world. Images of children struggling to gather their last breaths may corral public support for Western military intervention. But they will also be remembered for decades, in al Qaeda's narrative, as still more evidence of Western complicity in global Muslim suffering.

From the very beginning of the conflict, Syrians have been asking for Western assistance. To date, the West has done little to support them.

Al Qaeda, however, has reacted. And it won't matter that their fighters shot dead a 14-year-old Syrian boy accused of blasphemy, or that they committed any number of other atrocities against the people they claim to protect. After two and half years of fighting and more than 100,000 people killed, the story will be that al Qaeda's fighters risked their lives for their Syrian brothers while world leaders watched the country burn.

Stewart explains that Western inaction in the face of Muslim suffering is part and parcel of the narrative that Al Qaeda has been spinning for years going back to Bosnia. And as she notes, while ordinary Syrians may not approve of the actions or embrace the beliefs that Al Qaeda espouses, the fact that they are on the ground doing something while the West watches is a powerful propaganda tool. Of all the arguments for Western intervention yet put forward, this may be the most compelling.