Syria: There Are No ‘Good Guys’

Well, OK, yes, there are some “good guys” in Syria: People trying to live their lives in the midst of civil war, doctors treating the wounded, and, yes, almost certainly some who are genuinely fighting for freedom.

But neither of the two sides of that civil war are worthy of support. Everything which either side gains comes at the expense of the “good guys.”

On the one hand, we have Bashar al-Assad’s brutal “National Progressive Front” regime: dominated by the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party, operating along Hitlerian fuhrerprinzip lines, internally oppressive and externally manipulative, and periodically belligerent.

On the other hand is an “uprising” that seems to be animated at least as much by foreign intervention as by internal dissent, and aimed less at procuring freedom for the masses than at tearing Syria away from its current alignments (with Iran and Russia, for example) and incorporating it into a new Middle East order in service to U.S., Turkish, and Israeli interests.

If the Syrian National Council gains power, the real changes that follow will occur primarily on the “balance of power” chessboard around which various Westphalian nation-states perpetually huddle — Russia may lose its navy’s only Mediterranean port, Israel may be able to reduce the cost of occupying (or even turn back over) the Golan Heights, Iran may lose a client state and three-quarters (if Syria goes, Iran’s influence in Lebanon wanes and its routes of material support for Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank will be partially interdicted), and so on.

For the average Syrian, though, “change” will largely, and at best, be a matter of changing some nameplates on government office doors, and perhaps giving the Idarat al-Amn al-Siyasi (Political Security Directorate — the regime’s secret police) a warmer, fuzzier name and some fresh paint for its torture chambers. A few political prisoners may be freed. After all, they’ll need to make room for the new ones. Rally round the remodeled flag, boys. New boss, same as the old boss.

It is for this kind of “revolution” that the “international community” — assorted governments no better than Assad’s and “nongovernmental organizations” drawing their paychecks from those governments — calls upon Syrians to shed their blood and assists them in doing so whether they want to or not.

When states play their games, the people always lose. And while I understand the impropriety of lecturing the oppressed on how to deal with their oppressors, I believe I’m on solid ground in urging the Syrian people not to waste their blood and treasure for no better purpose than getting themselves out of the frying pan they know so well and into the fire beneath it.

Nor are the oppressed of other lands, in particular those whose governments are involved in this latest gambit, in any way served by the interventionist machinations of their masters.

The only revolution worth having — or encouraging or aiding — is a revolution that abolishes not just a particular state, but the state as such. Anything less is at best a tactical move probably not worth the cost, and at worst a mere change of labels worth nothing at all.

Originally published at the Center for a Stateless Society.

Author: Thomas Knapp

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism, publisher of Rational Review News Digest, and moderator of’s commenting/discussion community.