Syria Is Not a False Flag. But It’s Complicated.

From the department of the for-some-reason not obvious: Syria exists. It is full of people.

I know it is hard not to view everything through the lens of US politics if you are in the US, but Syria was not invented by the US and if I hear one more “false flag” claim I’m going to go apeshit.

There is a civil war. It is real. Most observers, including from countries that aren’t the US, don’t think it will end until/unless Assad steps down. He has committed numerous war crimes, which, again, are well-documented, because it’s impossible to do something on this scale and not document it.

There have been other atrocities during the war by other factions, but those other factions are not currently the head of state. Presumably the conflict would also continue if one of them tried to name himself dictator.

Also, the forces of truth and justice, such as they are, are not the ones who have major weapons and an air force, so “let them fight it out” basically means Assad wins. Which is why it’s been going that way with non-intervention.

Maybe you want us to stay out of it. There are any number of good reasons to want that. Maybe you don’t trust the current administration to carry it out. (I mean, look who we’re dealing with here.) Maybe you straight up don’t want us to spend the money for a large-scale intervention. (It’s a lot.) Maybe you look at the situation and think that if we went all in, it would prompt a nuclear strike by Iran or Russia that would kill even more civilians, in even more places. Maybe you have a spiritual committment to nonviolence that makes you disbelieve any violent response, even to extreme violence, is ever warranted.

I could keep going. There are thousands of good reasons not to want war. It’s not like this isn’t thorny. The international response to the Syrian conflict has been confused and strange partly because the situation is a fairly direct challenge to ideas around sovereignty and nationhood; it’s not clear what, in Syria, counts as self-rule. We like the idea that we could just accept the inflow of refugees and write Syria off as a loss, but we want those refugees to assimilate and stop being Syrian. We don’t have the comfort of saying “well, Syria’s always been a mess” because it wasn’t. It was pretty economically stable, with a broad and educated middle class. There’s not a clear outside agitator, but also not a clear “brought it on themselves.”

I get why you have complicated feelings about it. I have complicated feelings. I don’t know an obvious right answer.

What I do know, to circle back, is that the Syrian conflict is not fake, and the arguments around it are not ingenuine. I would appreciate it if everyone could stay in the land of real arguments, instead of the comforting fantasy that this has all been made up – that the only real bad guys are some English-speaking politicians and journalists who you can fight with snarky e-mails and threatening to take your votes elsewhere.

Please see that what you are doing is trying to distance yourself from grief and a sense of guilt that these terrible things are happening and you don’t want to intervene. (Maybe it’s not the time. Maybe it would make things worse.) There’s a reason that “we just didn’t know, couldn’t trust what we were hearing” is a classic from a lot of genocides. It’s emotionally easier to pretend the deaths are lies and fantasies, and you can fight them by hating the politicians you already hate, supporting the social programs you already support, because you are a good person.

Maybe those truly are the best things we can do right now. I don’t have that answer. But I promise you the “false” and “sucker” narrative is the one that makes you feel better, makes you feel like you’ve solved it. If you feel anything other than awful, your understanding of the situation is probably wrong.