The Search for the Perfect Muslim (Part 2 - Syria and Its Damn Civil War)

Our belief in the myth of a sectarian Muslim war against the West is drawing us once again into an interminable civil war.

(Before you begin to read this article, or even if you are not going to read it, please click on this link HERE to see who is actually fighting in Syria now).

A few days ago, a superb article appeared in the New York Times discussing the Syrian Civil War not in terms of who was right or wrong, but simply as a species of civil war.

Let's take our own American Civil War as an example of a civil war.  There were two sides with clear geographic boundaries.  There was no direct outside intervention by any third power. While some civilians were killed, each side for political and moral reasons tried to keep civilians in the areas they controlled safe and out of the war.  Each side had a functioning government and only one side could win.  During the war, neither side had to fear a genocide against the other by the victor.  The North fought the South to exhaustion and won the war.  The North then recreated a functioning national government.

In Syria, there are more than two sides, with no clear territorial boundaries. There is an immense outside intervention, which means that no side can fight the other to exhaustion. The structure of the war encourages atrocities against civilians on all sides.  The governments of all sides are weak. Armies are built to fight, but no side is capable of winning and setting up a stable government.  All sides expect a genocide if they lose, which means that they are fighting as much not to lose as to win.  The Syrian Civil War has the potential to spread, especially since the United States (and its allies in the war) and the Russians (and its allies in the war), with their virtually inexhaustible resources, are supporting different sides (and they seem prone to support different sides at different times).

While from our point of view, part of the civil war is a fight against ISIS and a continuation of the US War in Iraq, Muslims make up most of the soldiers on all sides of the conflict.  I believe that if we as a nation take up the myth of a sectarian war of Muslims against the West, we will be unable to see the Syrian Civil War for what it is.  And it will pull us in more and more, as the Afghan War has, but with much more damage to us and our interests.

unagidon is a contributing editor to Commonweal.

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