Inaction on Syria ignores connection between brutality at home and actions abroad

Enough hope, it's time for change in Syria. When will the international community realise that how it acts at home, it will almost certainly act abroad.

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Hamza Khateeb was murdered by Syrian forces
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Julia Pettengill
On 3 June 2011 13:29

As the UK joins the chorus of nations calling for the IAEA to formally refer Syria to the Security Council for its illicit nuclear programme, the Syrian government has been compelled to announce an investigation into the torture and brutal murder of a thirteen-year old boy named Hamza Al-Khateeb (right), allegedly mutilated and killed by Syrian security services because of his involvement in anti-regime protests.   

The actions of the Assad regime recall German poet Heinrich Heine’s chillingly prescient insight that ‘...where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people also.’ The authoritarian impulse which bans dissent leads logically not only to brutality at home, but also to aggression abroad: Syria’s clear flouting of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is but one in a series of examples of Syria’s consistently aggressive posture on the international stage. 

Why, then, do the US and other powers continue to feign surprise at the clear connections between the way a regime behaves at home and its actions abroad? In a statement billed as her toughest stand on Syria thus far, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton limpidly remarked: "I can only hope that this child did not die in vain but that the Syrian government will end the brutality and begin a transition to real democracy."

To modify the President’s favourite aphorism, enough with hope—isn’t it time for some change? Each new report out of Syria is a fresh reminder of why we must indeed change our approach to Syria in particular and autocracies in general—a point very effectively argued in Michael Weiss and Hannah Stuart’s forthcoming strategic briefing ‘The Syrian Opposition: Political Analysis with Original Testimony from Key Figures,’ to be published soon by the Henry Jackson Society.

Julia Pettengill is a Research Fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, where this piece first appeared.

A video below, taken by Raheem Kassam, the Associate Editor at The Commentator, shows pro-democracy activists protesting at the lack of US help outside the White House in May 2011.

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