Syrians protest against the Assad regime in Homs, April 2012 (Photo: Reuters)
Note to Syria interventionists: Be careful what you wish for
International intervention in Syria could push President Bashar Assad into even more extreme actions in what has now become a sectarian war, warns Chemi Shalev in Haaretz.
The Syrian conflict may have been sparked by the Arab Spring, but by now it has very little to do with it. The standoff between the Alawi-dominated regime and the exclusively Sunni opposition is not a part of some Facebook revolt or Twitter rebellion and is no longer, if it ever was, an insurrection of democracy-seeking civilians against an oppressive autocratic regime. This is now a sectarian blood feud, an age-old vendetta, another bloody chapter in an ongoing conflict between a pilloried, outcast and persecuted sect that 40 years ago, after a millennium of persecution and degradation, ingeniously succeeded in seizing power and turning the tables on its historical oppressors.
Syrian intervention risks upsetting global order
Writing in the Washington Post, Henry Kissinger takes a critical look at the criteria for international intervention in a sovereign state, and whether action in Syria would meet those criteria.
While the United States accelerates withdrawals from military interventions in neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan, how can a new military commitment in the same region be justified, particularly one likely to face similar challenges? Does the new approach — less explicitly strategic and military, and geared more toward diplomatic and moral issues — solve the dilemmas that plagued earlier efforts in Iraq or Afghanistan, which ended in withdrawal and a divided America? Or does it compound the difficulty by staking U.S. prestige and morale on domestic outcomes that America has even fewer means and less leverage to shape? Who replaces the ousted leadership, and what do we know about it? Will the outcome improve the human condition and the security situation? Or do we risk repeating the experience with the Taliban, armed by America to fight the Soviet invader but then turned into a security challenge to us?
Orthodoxy and the Internet
The ultra-Orthodox world is fighting a losing battle on censoring the internet, a medium which has thrown Jewish thought and expression open to the masses, writes Jeremy Rosen of Algemeiner.
Much of the Charedi world preserves its intellectual stranglehold on the faithful by censoring innovative rabbinic opinions. Books printed over the past five hundred years that have expressed contrarian or lenient views have had pages and sections removed from new editions. Uncomfortable personal details that give the lie to stereotypes and hagiography have disappeared from official view. The internet now allows the originals of all such books to be published and readily available to anyone with a computer and a basic Talmudic education. We can now all see what was permitted in previous generations and where current rabbis have pushed the boundaries far further than ever before.
The Human Rights Council: Give Credit Where Credit Is Due
Results show that the United States was right to engage with the UN’s controversial Human Rights Council, and will be better placed to end its obsession with Israel from within, writes Stewart M. Patrick in the Council on Foreign Relations.
Beyond placing abusers in the “hot seat”, the United States has over the past three years scored some impressive victories on thematic resolutions. For years, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and its predecessor (the Organization of the Islamic Conference) had pushed a “defamation of religion” resolution that collided with free speech principles. The Obama administration, building on its emerging partnership with Egypt, launched a diplomatic outreach to major Muslim capitals, from Jeddah to Islamabad. The result was an historic achievement: passage of a resolution on freedom of expression and religion that contained none of the problematic language—and yet enjoyed widespread support among Muslim countries.
The Window is Closing for Riyadh
Saudi oil money will not last forever, and the country needs to invest in its human resources before it is too late, argues Robert Looney in Foreign Policy.
Initially caught off guard when the Arab Spring movement erupted in early 2011, Saudi officials scrambled to stave off unrest in the way that comes naturally to this authoritarian kingdom awash in oil revenue. Their response focused largely on the immediate problem of easing the country’s surprisingly high unemployment, shelling out $120 billion on social programs, government and private-sector job creation schemes, and subsidies to household income. But pouring money on the problems goes only so far; the economy must find better ways to cope with an entitled, skill-short Saudi workforce, not to mention religious restrictions that constrain efforts to modernize the economy.
Dangers Ahead for Egypt
Nathan J. Brown of the National Interest finds that while neither of Egypt’s presidential candidates promises a smooth future, he still has hopes for the country’s new -found democratic spirit.
When they return to the polling stations in mid-June, Egyptians will be forced to choose between one candidate posing falsely as Mr. Order (Ahmed Shafik, a cranky leftover from the old regime) and the other even less persuasively as Mr. Personality (Mohamed Morsi, the Brotherhood’s “spare tire” who became the movement’s nominee only when its first choice was disqualified because he previously had been convicted by a kangaroo court).