Regarding Syria

As you may have noticed, if you read my blog, I often wait a while before commenting on major issues facing the United States and the West in general. Often, I have to develop my feelings and impressions before I comment. Often, I can’t find a language-related reason to comment. With Syria, my own torn feelings and the uninteresting rhetoric – with the exception of Republican opposition to unilateralism but not the actual proposed strike – contributed to my avoidance of the topic.

But recently, the Syrian Electronic Army hacked the Marines’ recruiting website This particular piece of propagandizing (which the SEA has a habit of engaging in) was weird enough to catch my eye. I’ve linked to the full text, so I won’t reproduce it here, but I’d like to examine a couple of quotes in detail.

First, I was struck by the things that the pro-Assad hackers zeroed in on. They understand the United States’ desire to destroy al-Qaida and also seem aware of a certain suspicion of President Obama among certain elements of the US population. They seek to make this connection explicit with lines like “Marines, please take a look at what your comrades think about Obama’s alliance with Al Qaeda against Syria. Your officer in charge probably has no qualms about sending you to die against soldiers just like you, fighting a vile common enemy.”

But I think they miss a key note here. Frankly, the United States might shout a lot, but we haven’t been keen on armed rebellion since the Civil War. And we aren’t the sort of country in which military units regularly attempt coups or join anti-government forces. For one thing, for all the right’s “reduce government” rhetoric, real anti-government groups are weak, uncoordinated, and unpopular. We prefer to wait out unpopular administrations rather than attempt to seize power by force. For another, our military is strong, disciplined, and unlikely to receive a better life anywhere else.

Furthermore, the line about “Obama’s alliance with Al-Qaeda” strikes a tin note. No matter your feelings on Obama, it’s hard to dispute that he ultimately ordered the strike on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. Bin Laden’s death undermines this claim quite a bit.

But, most of all, the Syrian propaganda falls on deaf ears because American citizens, as a whole, do not have the same depth of feeling for Syria that they had regarding Iraq and Afghanistan. Indeed, the prevailing mood appears to be one of fatigue. If we are going to strike Assad, the feeling seems to be, then strike him and get it over with. With a few exceptions, Americans have exhausted their feelings toward despotic regimes in the Middle East and are unlikely to experience a surge in emotion for a citizenry that they have never particularly cared about before.

Propaganda that falls on salted ground doesn’t grow. We might be roused to strike once more, given the evidence of chemical weapon use, which still triggers visceral emotions in a nation that prides itself, however intermittently, on opposing genocide and war crimes. What we will not be roused to do is, as the SEA seems to desire, turn on our leaders and “refuse orders” because the unimaginative dictator of a brutal regime politely asked us to.


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