Although it may seem like the events of the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011 are far in the past, in reality its effects are still being felt as the drama continues to unfold in a number of countries in the Middle East.
In Egypt, the events that originally led longtime dictator Hosini Mubarak to be ousted for democratically-elected Mohammed Morsi have turned in a complete circle. Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, has since been deposed barely a year into his rule by people displeased with his hard-line religious views as well as his inability to turn around his country’s economic woes in a short time. Since then, supporters of the second deposed leader have clashed with the military forces that have since taken rule, with the death toll rising over 1,000 and all eyes turning to see what ugly development will unfold next.
Nearby in Syria, the civil war that originated as a result of the Arab Spring protests against dictator Bashar-Al Assad continues to rage on. Since 2011, the dictator has continued to fight his opposition with an iron fist; the United Nations has since confirmed that Assad had gassed his own people to death in the conflict that has since claimed over 100,000 lives.
The strife of these two nations only seems to serve as the exclamation point of the longstanding conflicts that have raged in this area – from the Iraq war to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict – that have continued to rage in the area.
What has conspicuously lay behind many of these conflicts is a sense of American interest, both in the times when the United States intervenes and when the United States chooses not to intervene.
Khaled Keshk, a DePaul associate professor versed in the topic of Egyptian studies, gives his take on the situation.
“The problem with Morsi was that he was from the Muslim Brotherhood, which meant that the entire West – including Israel – did not want him, the autocratic regimes in the Gulf did not want him and the military did not want him,” Keshk said.
It should be noted that the United States did not play a part in the ousting of Morsi – this was a result of a popularly-backed military coup led by General Fatah al-Sisi. However, it should also be noted that the United States did little to condemn the crackdowns, violence and rights violations undertaken by the army forces, suggesting that the United States does indeed prefer a compliant dictatorship to the potential complications of a true democracy.
“The United States has shown that they would rather have a military dictatorship than the Muslim Brotherhood,” Keshk said. “For them … the idea of Morsi and his like would mean that a genuine democracy with multiple interests might develop in Egypt which is too much of a ‘headache.’ If it makes sense for the United States to have a military dictator or a semi-democratic, non-Islamic, pro-Israel government in Egypt, then that is what the United States will do.”
At this point, many analysts say the events that are unfolding are already in place, and it may be too late for the United States to influence what is happening in that country.
But the situation in Syria remains a different story.
Syria, as it is, remains a hotbed of chaos that has escalated to a far greater scale than that present in Egypt. United Nations officials, after facing a harrowing journey in which they were shot at by unknown assailants, finally made it to the site of an alleged chemical attack undertaken by Assad against his own people.
The confirmation that these attacks occurred present a tough decision for the American leadership. Originally, Obama had claimed that the use of chemical weapons would be the “red line”for intervention.
While the United States has few important ties to Syria, it seems more and more likely that the United States may follow throughon its promise. While no one wants to repeat the Iraq War, it should be noted that two years ago the United States supported a series of air strikes to help end the turmoil in the Libyan Civil War.
The American government cannot attempt to serve its own ulterior motives via “nation building” as it did in Iraq. If the United States is going to go to war in Syria, hopefully they make their decisions grounded with restraint, choosing only to make the decisions that will save lives in the long run.
Hopefully, instead of basing their decisions in the name of American self-interest, the United States can make a decision based on humanitarian values.