The PJ Tatler

Syria's Invisible Agony

Perhaps because the body count in Syria doesn’t measure up to bloody tragedies like Darfur or Rwanda, the world has tuned out what’s happening on the ground and gone on to more distracting pursuits — such as murdering infidels because of a blasphemous film.

More than 1,000 people are dying every week in Syria, but the story has slipped off the world’s front pages and has been relegated to the occasional wire service report that tells us of massacres in unpronounceable villages and provinces, followed up with ominous stories of terrorist groups, waving the black flag of al-Qaeda, fighting to depose President Bashar Assad.

This excellent Reuters dispatch wonders why the world has lost interest:

Instead of stirring ever greater outrage, the remorseless violence seems instead to have numbed an outside world which has no answers to Syria’s nightmare, giving Assad free rein to ratchet up the firepower against opponents who began protesting in the streets and are now fighting an ill-matched civil war.

Air raids by jet-bombers and strafing by helicopter gunships against residential districts have become a daily routine, while reports of hundreds killed in the town of Daraya three weeks ago elicited barely more than token condemnation abroad.

“There is a dwindling public engagement with the issue outside Syria and that reflects the grinding relentlessness of the conflict,” said Julien Barnes-Dacey of the European Council on Foreign Relations. “It’s not mobilizing Western populations to push governments to take action.”

Even if Western powers felt greater pressure to act, they are hamstrung by fears of stirring wider regional conflict, by reluctance to arm Assad’s foes and by deadlock at the United Nations where Russia and China have blocked moves against him.

The one case where the United State set a “red line” which might trigger a military response – Assad deploying his chemical weapons – may have served only to embolden the Syrian leader.

“They have effectively said: ‘We won’t intervene unless you use chemical weapons’,” Barnes-Dacey said. “Assad has felt liberated to use more violence.

“There has been a surge in government brutality and government-led violence and that hasn’t provoked any reaction.”

Underlining the apparent license which the Syrian government feels the global inaction has granted it, three members of a moderate opposition group which has operated with official permission were detained shortly after their return from Beijing with a promise of Chinese support, a group spokesman said.

Call it, “outrage fatigue.” Not to put too fine a point on it, but we have our own problems at home — serious crises that threaten everything from financial collapse to social upheaval. Despite the fact that Syria is a lit match in the most explosive region of the world, the domestic political situation in Europe, the US, and even Russia and China argue against intervention of any kind. Hence, our meager efforts to supply the rebels — while studiously avoiding giving them weapons with which they could eventually win — not only to keep us from having to intervene, but to also prevent terrorists from using our own weapons to attack our interests.

All the hand wringing is a front; the world knows what has to be done and with or without Assad’s apologists in Moscow and Beijing, a community of like minded nations could act outside of the UN’s auspices and end the violence, establish the beginnings of a democratic Syria, and bring the perpetrators of war crimes to justice.

But it won’t happen — especially now that Syria’s invisible agony is out of sight and out of mind.