General Question

_zen_'s avatar

Why is Obama treating Syria differently than Libya? How many more must die before he intervenes?

Asked by _zen_ (7809 points ) June 18th, 2011

If he doesn’t believe the videos and eyewitness reports, he can always check with Angelina Jolie.

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38 Answers

gorillapaws's avatar

Syria doesn’t have as much oil as Libya.

laureth's avatar

Have the Syrians, or anyone else in the region, asked the West to intervene, as they did with Libya? There is a history in the region of the West meddling in their affairs, often against the popular will. I was surprised that the rebels in Libya wanted help. I have not heard that the Syrian rebels want us butting in, but I could easily be proven wrong.

trickface's avatar

@gorillapaws put the full stop on this potentially long and drawn out debate. It’s oil.

Blondesjon's avatar

As opposed to how many more will have to die if he does?

kourkoubini's avatar

No money profit = No intervenes…
What do you think USA is? World Police?

_zen_'s avatar

CBS News In a speech outlining his vision for the Middle East Thursday, President Obama singled out Syrian President Bashar Assad for his crackdown on protesters. The administration has hit him with new sanctions to pressure him to bring about reform, but is the real goal to force him out? Katie Couric put that question to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton just after the president spoke.

Couric: Is the Obama administration now ready to call for Syria’s president to leave?

Clinton: Obama was very clear. And what we want is to continue to support the voices of democracy, those who are standing against the brutality. But we’re also well aware every situation is different. And in this one, Assad has said a lot of things that you didn’t hear from other leaders in the region, about the kind of changes he would like to see. That may all be out the window, or he may have one last chance.

Couric: At the same time, you know, this Syrian regime is close to Iran. They’re getting support from Iran to—for their tactics of suppression, if you will. Their—they support terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas. So, why not just say he needs to be removed?

Clinton: Well, you’re right that Iran is supporting them, and we’re calling them out on it. But I think we also know—that there are many different forces at work in Syria. And we think it would be better if the people of Syria themselves made it clear to Assad that there have to be changes.

Couric: The whole notion of regime change isn’t working very well in Libya, is it?

Clinton: I disagree with that. I think we are seeing slow, but steady progress. The pressure on the Qaddafi regime has increased to the point that Qaddafi’s wife and daughter fled—across the border into Tunisia in the last two days. The oil minister has defected. So, we’re making progress. I wish it would go faster. They certainly wish it would go faster. But we’re on the right path.

Couric: Why does the killing of civilians in Libya justify U.S. military involvement, but the killing of civilians in Syria does not?

Clinton: There’s no “one size fits all” and there’s no magic wand. If there were, we’d be waving it like crazy. And in Libya, what we had was a unique international coalition. What we’re seeing now is increasing pressure on Syria. We’re seeing—the European Union taking actions. Us upping the actions. And I think you’ll see more in the days to come.

filmfann's avatar

We are already pretty deep in Afganistan, Iraq, and Libya. We are not the world’s police, though we must seem like that at times. It is also important that we don’t seem like we are just fucking with the Muslim nations. It makes those who lump these together as an American Crusade hate us more, and use it as a call to arms.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
WasCy's avatar

It’s certainly not so simplistic as “there’s no oil, so we don’t care”. In fact having a “friendly” Syria (especially if the US in specific or “the West” in general were to assist in overthrowing Assad) would probably have far greater strategic benefit to ‘us’ than overthrowing Kaddafi. There are a lot of reasons why it “might, possibly, maybe” be a good idea to intervene strongly and overtly on the side of the rebels.

A Syria that was more appreciative of Western assistance to get to a better place for most of its population would make it far more likely to at least assist in brokering a stable and workable deal between Palestine and Israel, and take away much of the funding and training of the Hezbollah rocketeers and others who want to bomb Israel. A Syria that was at least not overtly hostile to Israel would allow the leaders of that country to discuss strategic concessions (such as the Golan Heights, for example) that have prevented real peace from breaking out in the Mideast since most of us were children (and many of us were not even born yet).

But it’s not that simple. Syria is ruled by Shiites, who are also the ruling party in Iran. No one wants to provoke Iran with more reason to destabilize Iraq or anyplace else in the Middle East, and certainly no one in the US administration wants another full- or half-scale war in Syria. And a Western fight in or with the current Syrian administration risks Israeli involvement that probably would automatically mobilize Jordan and maybe even Egypt.

We don’t need more fighting in your part of the world, @zen. Less is better in this case.

gorillapaws's avatar

@WasCy I didn’t mean to imply that we don’t care because there’s no oil, simply that there isn’t a compelling reason to start another war with so much at stake (which you and others have pointed out) and with so little to gain in the end.

Personally, I think Russia should get involved, or China, or the UAE any other country that has the resources to stop the bloodshed, but doesn’t have the stigma in the middle east that the US has. I also think Obama personally cares very much, but is fairly constrained in what he can do to help. I’m sure his diplomats are working overtime in the Middle East.

_zen_'s avatar

An interesting article about this here

The differences between the Sunni and Shiite Islamic sects are rooted in disagreements over the
succession to the Prophet Muhammad, who died in 632 AD, and over the nature of leadership in
the Muslim community. The historic debate centered on whether to award leadership to a
qualified, pious individual who would follow the customs of the Prophet or to transmit leadership
exclusively through the Prophet’s bloodline. The question was settled initially when community
leaders elected a companion of the Prophet’s named Abu Bakr to become the first Caliph (Arabic
for “successor”). Although most Muslims accepted this decision, some supported the candidacy
of Ali ibn Abi Talib, the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law, husband of the Prophet’s daughter
Fatima. Ali had played a prominent role during the Prophet’s lifetime, but he lacked seniority
within the Arabian tribal system and was bypassed.

Nullo's avatar

Perhaps a better question: Why should he be involved at all?

incendiary_dan's avatar

It’s not just oil, though that certainly plays a role. But the U.S. hasn’t been on good terms with Gaddafi for a while, whereas the government generally approves of Syria’s tyrant.

_zen_'s avatar

@Nullo Care to answer it?

ETpro's avatar

The question is like, Reagan invaded Grenada, why then didn’t he invade China and Russia?. The simple answer is Syria is a VERY, VERY different situation than Libya.

We have no agreement from the Arab League or from the UN that we should intervene in Syria. We have no pressure from our NATO Allies to be a part of a coalition effort in Syria. The Syrian army is a real military force while Qaddafi’s Libyan army was a pathetic joke. Simply enforcing a no-fly zone and selective bombing would not stop Assad. In fact, in 90 days, it hasn’t even stopped Qaddafi. In Syria, we would need to invade with a large ground force to be effective. WHere should we get all those troops? A draft? How should we pay for it?

And as @WasCy points out, oil is not the ruling factor in our actions in either country. We did not get any of our oil from Libya and OPEC agreed before the Libyan action to up output so any disruption of Libyan supplies would not impact Europe, which does buy Libyan oil. Also, @WasCy is spot-on about the widening Shiite crescent around Israel and its implications. Any meddling in Syria beyond international sanctions and declaration of Assad as a war criminal is likely to blow back on us with serious and very unwanted consequences.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

He is treating it the same. The US and France are talking to Russia to pass a UN Security Council resolution. Once the UN has allowed action, a similar course of action will ensue.

hiphiphopflipflapflop's avatar

If European refineries didn’t need Libyan light sweet crude in order to turn a profit on low-sulfur fuel, I doubt anyone would be involved there. Remember, it’s the French that charged in going “who’s with me?” this time. We’re the reluctant partner for once.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@hiphiphopflipflapflop (and everyone else citing oil) Gaddafi was prepared to offer very lucrative oil contracts. The Libyan rebel movement is about national interests, and the people standing up for themselves. NATO intervention is, in my opinion, unlikely to buy them cheaper oil when the rebels are so patriotic and protective of their country. Even if it did, the difference would never buy back the hundreds of millions spent in the current military action.

Qingu's avatar

There are several important differences.

1. The number of people killed by Libyan government forces was much greater than in Syria.

2. The nature of force used in Libya—military force, fighter jets, militias, tanks—is much different than the police-state nature of force in Syria.

3. Qaddafi explicitly threatened to kill opposition, bordering on a threat of ethnic cleansing. He said he’d go house to house and hunt them down like rats. Assad has made no similar threats and his actions, brutal as they are, do not indicate anything like this is imminent.

4. There is not a UN resolution, supported by the Arab league, calling for America to attack Syria.

Oil may be a part of it, too, but I think it’s naive and simplistic to reduce foreign policy merely to a Risk-game like strategy over one particular resource.

manolla's avatar

I think that it might be because Qaddafi has a history of tense relationship with the arab countries in the region, the Arab League even started making negotiations with the leadership of the opposition so since he has no supporters in the region as everyone turned against him and UN applied a resolution supported by the Arab league, Obama can act on thier approval.

The world’s opinion matters in these situations and the US can’t intervene without the international support.

incendiary_dan's avatar

@Qingu The nature of force used in Libya—military force, fighter jets, militias, tanks—is much different than the police-state nature of force in Syria.

What about the shelling and burning by flamethrowers of whole villages that’s being reported? There have actually been reports of soldiers going door to door in some regions of Syria shooting people.

Qingu's avatar

@incendiary_dan, have those reports been corroborated? It’s the first I’ve heard of them.

_zen_'s avatar

How about the reports of kidnapping teenagers and returning them dead with their penis’ cut off as a warning to the family. Have you not seen that? Watch AC360 – he has shown a lot of video coverage and interviews.

Qingu's avatar

That I did hear about; what I need to know is how widespread it is. Every conflict has isolated cases like this.

_zen_'s avatar

Every conflict has isolated cases like kidnapping teens, torturing them for months and returning them without their privates? What conflict is this exactly? Protesting against a dictator is a “conflict”?

These are military, government sanctioned acts by a dictator – who was also on the axis side – if you recall, supports Hammas and terrorism (keeping their offices open in Damascus) and has his tanks and planes in the streets mowing down peaceful protestors. Wtf are you on – but then, I’m never surprised by your remarks.

incendiary_dan's avatar

@Qingu So far they’ve only been repeated by numerous people from several locations as they passed through the Turkish border. As you know, Western journalists are barred from going in, and therefore are having a hard time corroborating anything. The stories have been covered on NPR.

Qingu's avatar

@zen, I’ve heard similar stories of despicable torture from practically every country involved in the Arab Spring. Do you want the US to invade all of them?

That cannot be your litmus test, for no other reason than the fact that the US can’t invade and depose every government that tortures political dissenters. We don’t have the resources; we barely have the resources to bomb Libya.

@incendiary_dan, do you have a citation?

mattbrowne's avatar

The Libyan freedom fighters are asking for outside help. The Syrian freedom fighters don’t. At least to my knowledge.

mattbrowne's avatar

Utterly terrible. I think the first step should be an arrest warrant for Assad issued by the International Criminal Court.

If the majority of the protesters welcomes a Libya-style UN resolution which includes military force against Assad’s troops it should indeed be implemented. But will Russia and China support such a resolution?

_zen_'s avatar

@mattbrowne Russia and China are the problem buddy. You hit the nail on the head. Traditionally they have always backed the asshole dictator from damascus.

mattbrowne's avatar

I wonder why they didn’t stop the Libya resolution.

_zen_'s avatar

Assad sort of seemed normal until the shit hit the fan. Khaddafi – well – no-one ever blamed him for being normal. Sheesh – what a bona fide nutcase. And the US – and world – haven’t forgotten the Lockerbey sellout.

mattbrowne's avatar

Maybe the world community needs to become more creative to deal with the situation. I fear that the US is a bit reluctant because of the serious national debt situation. The EU and Switzerland have already frozen Assad’s assets. Why not use it to pay for the forces used to stop Assad? Wars are expensive.

trickface's avatar

@mattbrowne I enjoy the discussion going on here, but do you not think the Libya situation should end before we start bombing Syria as well?

mattbrowne's avatar

@trickface – Just over the past few days both Obama and Clinton have made it very clear that Assad’s conduct is totally unacceptable. We can’t start bombing Syria. We first need a mandate from the UN Security Council. China and Russia seem to agree with the conduct of dictators who engage in killing people who demonstrate and disagree. The only reason they went along in Libya was the safety of thousands of their workers.

ETpro's avatar

@mattbrowne Sure China and Russia (under Putin) think killing all political dissenters is fine. That’s how they run their won countries.

mattbrowne's avatar

@ETpro – Exactly. But we need to do something about Syria.

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