They say those who fail to learn history are doomed to repeat it. Everybody knows that Bashar al Assad is a brutal dictator. He has ties to Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah. He may have gassed his own citizens, but he’s far from unique. The US doesn’t – and shouldn’t – make a policy of deposing brutal dictators or stopping unthinkable wars without some other reason for involvement. Pol Pot, the Rwandan genocide, Darfur, even the Bosnian War all went by with very little, if any, American intervention.
All of those situations were incredibly tragic, but there are also numerous situations through history which illustrate perfectly why America doesn’t haphazardly entangle itself in messy and complicated foreign conflicts. Here is a list of the top five such historical incidents.
Brutal dictatorships, when toppled, rarely lead to democracy. More often, they simply open a power vacuum which the most organized and brutal opposition faction can take advantage of and establish their own government, which is no better to or more representative of the country’s people. In fact, in many cases it’s worse.
Foreign involvement in such conflicts must be approached with nuance and understanding, though it often isn’t. Simply acting against one group is not good enough. Foreign countries intervening in a conflict they don’t understand does not necessarily make the situation better.
In Syria, factions like the Free Syrian Army seek to establish more secular and freedom oriented governments, but it’s unlikely that they will win in the aftermath of the war and the US shows no intention to ensure that they do. America should approach its involvement, not by emotional reactions to death tolls and Assad’s brutality, but through rational analysis of what’s best for Syria and the region.