The Anarchy Factor in Syria

TEL AVIV – The failure of the Obama administration, its Western allies, and several Middle East regional powers to take bolder action to stop the carnage in Syria is often explained by their fear of anarchy. Given the Syrian opposition’s manifest ineffectiveness and disunity, so the argument goes, President Bashar al-Assad’s fall, when it finally comes, will incite civil war, massacres, and chaos, which is likely to spill over Syria’s borders, further destabilizing weak neighbors like Iraq and Lebanon, and leading, perhaps, to a regional crisis.

What is actually happening in Syria refutes this argument. In fact, the lingering crisis is corroding the fabric of Syrian society and government. Anarchy is setting in now: it is preceding – and precipitating – the regime’s eventual fall.

The United States and others are substituting high rhetoric and symbolic punitive action for real action on Syria. Sanctions on those involved in electronic warfare against the opposition's social media are not the answer to the shelling of civilian neighborhoods in Homs and Deraa.

For several months, Russian and Chinese obstruction in the United Nations Security Council was both a real obstacle to more effective sanctions and a convenient veil for inaction. More recently, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s mission on behalf of the UN and the Arab League has come to play a similar role.