Public Lives

How do we solve a problem like Syria?


When the world was much less interconnected, it was already difficult to keep the internal conflicts of nations from spilling beyond their borders.  It seemed axiomatic even then for protagonists in civil wars to seek outside support.  At the same time, external forces tended to see in civil wars opportunities to expand their influence or fortify their control of a region. It was not uncommon to find that foreign powers were sometimes the instigators of these internal wars.

Foreign intervention has its own dynamics.  More often than not, it enlarges the scope of the conflagration.  It stirs up elements that hitherto had lain dormant.  Thus it made sense for the evolving modern international community to let nations settle their own civil wars and leave them free to determine what type of social order best suits their people.

Today, we cannot pretend as if a government’s way of treating its citizens were the business solely of its own people. The world has become one society, almost overnight, largely because of satellite communication and the Internet.  The technology of mass dissemination is no longer the monopoly of states and their elites.  For the first time, the peoples of the world can observe and connect with one another as human beings, rather than as segmented races, tribes, or nations.

Therefore, what happens to the people of Syria has become everybody’s business.  Not just because, as in our case, we have overseas Filipino workers who live and work there.  The more important reason for caring is that more than 100,000 civilians, many of them innocent children, have been killed in the last two years as a result of this civil war.  At the center of this ongoing tragedy is an autocratic government that has shown no qualms in using brutal force to subjugate its own people.

I have long wondered why the world seems to have a hard time coming to a consensus against the regime of Bashar Assad.  It didn’t take too long for the United Nations, Western Europe, and North America to intervene in the humanitarian crisis in Libya in order to stop its late dictator, Moammar Gadhafi, from inflicting more harm on the Libyan people.  The decision made by Nato and the United States to impose a no-fly zone seamlessly led to direct air strikes aimed at killing the Libyan ruler himself.  Those strikes did not kill him but were forceful enough to compel him to move in search of refuge. On Oct. 20, 2011, armed Libyan militias chanced upon him hiding in a drainage pipe and dragged him out to face the fury of his own people.

I had hoped that Assad might meet his end in more or less the same way.  But, far from that, he appears to have gained the upper hand.  More than two years since the onset of the Arab Spring, the dictatorial regimes of the Middle East have learned much from the events in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt. Their response has been to dig in and seek allies from abroad to prop up their regimes.

The Syrian situation has become very complex as a result. Syria’s neighbors have taken opposing sides. Turkey has taken the side of the United States and is calling for a regime change, saying it cannot take in millions of refugees as the Syrian conflict worsens. Iran, on the other hand, actively supports Assad. Russia has blocked every move in the United Nations to intervene in Syria. Muslim militants find themselves on opposing sides fighting one another.  About 8,000 Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon have joined forces with Assad to repel the rebels who include in their ranks some of the most seasoned jihadists linked to the al-Qaida.

To all intents and purposes, Syria today is a broken country. If Assad survives, the fight to topple him will continue indefinitely, assume new forms and take in more elements than can safely be managed by any successor government.  If his regime collapses, it is doubtful that the rebel forces will be able to quickly unite and put together an interim government that can maintain order and pave the way for a democratic and pluralist system.  The reversal of the democratic gains in Egypt shows how troubled and how volatile the transition period can be.  For all their infamy, dictatorships survive because they perform functions, not the least of which is to check the growth of unconventional political forces like the al-Qaida, and stem the spread of volatile impulses like the Arab Spring.

Nothing perhaps mirrors the deep ambivalence the world feels about the Syrian crisis than the British Parliament’s recent vote against joining the United States in a plan to launch military strikes against the Syrian government.  Despite being presented with independent evidence showing chemical weapons were used against civilians in a Damascus suburb last month, members of parliament crossed party lines to reject the plan.  US President Barack Obama himself took a step back from his earlier stance of striking Syria if the red line of using chemical weapons was crossed.  He is now seeking approval for his proposal from the US Congress, where there is a good chance it may be rejected.

In spite of our pressing domestic problems, we must find time to reflect on our responsibilities as citizens of a common world. It behooves nation-states to exhaust all peaceful means to protect the basic rights of ordinary people and allow nations to settle their internal troubles in a nonviolent way. The use of military action against another country is an act of aggression. Its outcomes can never be limited or predicted.  As vital as the votes of parliaments are in finding a solution to this problem, the voice of the global community of netizens must be heard now more than ever.

* * *

Get Inquirer updates while on the go, add us on these apps:

Inquirer Viber

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • Bukas Mata

    It is so sad when some pinoy journalists have become just cheerleaders of war and parrots of western media.

    • 33Sam



    • AguinaldoIsNotAHero

      “cheerleaders of war and parrots of western media”? It’s either you failed to understand or DID NOT actually read the article. He was AGAINST military intervention.

  • slicenziuten

    how do we solve it? – honestly we simply cant.
    syria is the middle east version of that asean group-of-islands-nation during the martial law era – the philippines. before the civil war their arid country suffers from everything (and more) – poor government, suppressed media, diminished (if not corrupted) public infrastructures, good old fashioned strong-man dictatorship and a lot more military aspect on the side courtesy of mother russia (uncle sam for macoy). in spite of these circumstances, native/local syrians are noted for being one of the friendliest in the arab region – quite comparable to the hospitality driven smile in every pinoy. and my father used to tell me that like filipinos, syrians whenever feeling bad, can also be the worst office-mate or co-employee to any happy ofw. their country was also anexed by a foriegn power, and they’re just decades old in self governing their land. perhaps there are similarities between our nations, but there are obvious differences as well. clearly, this suggest that greed & corruption transcend religion, culture and race. yes- we can share many things on how to face a dictator and how to fight for the syrian voice to be heard. heck! we can suggest anything except for our unique expertise in democracy, we definitely flanked that one so many times. and yet its worth the risk.

    in the end taking a chance on freedom is the most important thing to do. and freedom to live trumps all.

  • RyanE

    I guess one problem with the western world is that it always use as reference point its style of democracy which is not necessarily applicable to other nations and cultures.

  • GKLer

    Mankind cannot solve the Syria Problem
    just as he couldn’t solve all the countless other wars he fought in.

    1. Read what God has decreed concerning Damascus (Syria)::

    Isaiah 17
    A prophecy against Damascus: “See, Damascus will no longer be a city but will become a heap of ruins………..declares the LORD Almighty.

    2 .Look at this map:
    en . wikipedia . org/wiki/File:Kingdoms_around_Israel_830_map . svg

    3. See 3 of 4 fulfilled prophecies: that the Kingdom of Edom is gone, Kingdom of Moab is gone, Kingdom of Ammon is gone (refer to Jeremiah 49, 48 Ezekiel 25, 35, Zephaniah 2, Obadiah 1:18). What remains is the destruction of the Kingdom of Damascus (Isaiah 17).

    4. War will continue until the END

    Daniel 9
    26 After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One [Messiah, Christ] will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The END will come like a FLOOD: WAR WILL CONTINUE UNTIL THE END, and desolations have been decreed.

    5. Christ said such things MUST happen before his return

    Matthew 24
    6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things MUST happen, but the END is still to come………..14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and THEN THE END WILL COME……….39and they did not understand until the FLOOD came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.…

    6. There are already “talks of peace” as we are seeing today…..

    1 Thessalonians 5
    [The Day of the Lord]
    Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for you know very well that the DAY OF THE LORD will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “PEACE and SAFETY,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

    7. After 2500 years of exile God returned the Israelites to their lands in 1948.

    Jeremiah 32:36-37
    36 “You are saying about this city, ‘By the sword, famine and plague it will be given into the hands of the king of Babylon’; but this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: 37 I will surely gather them from all the lands where I banish them in my furious anger and great wrath; I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety.

    8. Read what happens next when the nations attack Israel…and then the Lord comes to fight for Israel in Zechariah 12 and 14, Ezekiel 38, 39

    9. Read the -visible- signs of the End Times here: Matthew 24, Luke 21, 2 Timothy 3, 1 Timothy 4 and compare them to current events.

    10. God’s Kingdom is coming to rule over the Nations!
    Matthew 6:9-10,33, Psalm 22:28, Psalm 47:8, Psalm 67:4, 1 Chronicles 16:31

    *And all mankind will see God’s salvation – Luke 3:6.

  • damatannapo

    ‘[W]hy has the little nation of Qatar spent 3 billion dollars
    to support the rebels in Syria? Could it be because Qatar is the
    largest exporter of liquid natural gas in the world and Assad won’t let
    them build a natural gas pipeline through Syria?’*

    Read here:


    Bakit sa Africa hindi sila nakialam?:
    Darfur – 200k+ Deaths
    Rwanda: 1 million+ Deaths
    Uganda: 1 million+ Deaths

    Sagot: See Above (Negosyo at hindi chemical weapons ang dahilan at mababasa rin kung bakit suportado ng Russia ang Syria)

    • Istambaysakanto

      Boss, mga Sunni muslims ang binabanatan sa Syria . Kung anuman ang vested interest nila duon ay baka kasama na sa puhunan .

To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.

Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:

c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City,Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


editors' picks

May 22, 2015

China versus Edca

May 21, 2015

Right thing to do