Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Tadae Takubo

【#200】Pay Attention to Syria

Tadae Takubo / 2013.07.02 (Tue)


July1, 2013

      The New York Times, known as a liberal newspaper that has persistently supported President Barack Obama, unusually carried a story that criticized his diplomacy as being scorned in the world on June 16. Since Obama entered his second term as president, he has been unwilling to be involved in foreign conflicts and hesitated to make bold decisions on diplomatic actions at key moments. As far as the Syrian problem, which became the biggest topic at June’s Group of Eight summit in Northern Ireland, is concerned, however, President Obama’s indecision is justifiable.

A civil war mistaken as a democracy movement
       U.S. liberal journalists have mostly mistaken the Arab Spring uprising since the autumn of 2010 as a nice movement where citizens have woken up to democracy and directly overthrown dictatorships in the Middle East and North Africa. The liberal Obama administration (1) positioned the Syrian civil war as an extension of the Arab Spring, (2) remained reluctant to see U.S. forces’ direct intervention and last summer made a plan for the U.S. to act when the Syrian regime crosses a “red line,” (3) acknowledged in June that the Syrian regime employed sarin as a chemical weapon and thereby crossed the red line, and (4) inevitably decided to provide arms to Syrian rebels while keeping them to the minimum..
       Republican Senator John McCain and former Democratic President Bill Clinton, though criticizing Obama’s inactive attitude, have no intent to see U.S. forces’ direct intervention in the Syrian civil war.

Chemical weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists
       The first reason why President Obama’s attitude toward Syria is marginally justifiable is that the Arab Spring has been romanticized too much and the Syrian situation may not be a part of democracy movement. As the situation represents a civil war, it is unfair to criticize the Assad regime unilaterally as having massacred 100,000 citizens including rebels while failing to count victims of the government side. Second, President Bashar al-Assad, even though having been brutal, has continued waging the civil war for more than 27 months due apparently to support by a significant portion of the Syrian population in addition to aid from Russia, Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Third, the biggest matter of concern to the U.S. and other democracies is that chemical weapons could fall into the hands of international terrorists as soon as rebels took government. This risk seems to be greater than that of the Assad regime’s usage of chemical weapons. In fact, the al-Qaeda international terrorist group has apparently joined Syrian rebels.
       Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took a neutral position on the Syrian problem at the G8 summit. This is significant for international politics. Preoccupied with his Abenomics economic policy and North Korea, Japanese journalists have failed to pay attention to the significance. They need to study more.
Tadae Takubo is Vice President, Japan Institute for National Fundamentals.