A study reveals that only a small minority of the rebels fighting against the Assad regime are for secular or nationalistic ideals. The assessment, put together by IHS Jane, a US defense consultancy with a long track record, is due to be published later this week. The assessment was completed using Western intelligence reports and interviews with activists and militants. There are a total of around 100,000 FSA fighters. To break down the numbers:
- 10,000 are jihadists
- 30,000 to 35,000 are hardline Islamists
- 30,000 are moderates who belong to a group that have an Islamic character
- The rest are fighting for secular or nationalistic ideals
That means that only between 25 and 30% of the FSA are focused on overturning Assad for nationalistic reasons, reasons of civic ideology. Now the reason this is important is because, in popular uprisings, numbers matter. If Assad were to be defeated in the coming months then Free Syrian Army (FSA) members would be the logical group from which to form a new government. If more than half of the FSA are jihadists and Islamists then one has to ask if this end to events would really be preferable whether it’s the result of a popular uprising or not. I mean, by extremists, we do mean organizations aligned with al-Qai’ida. That’s not hyperbole and it’s not a boogeyman, it’s a literal connection and, as I’ve noted before, you are paying to help them.
For us Westerners who always have a tendency to root for the underdog, we need to stop romanticizing overseas conflicts as if they reflect our own ideals. There is no bad guy/good guy dynamic in this fight. They’re almost all bad guys.
The key to navigating these kinds of situations in the past has been to pick the least bad guy and support him in a kind of “meh, it could be worse” approach to foreign policy. But, over the last year, the West has been trying to support that small minority, mentioned above, that would be palatable to Western citizens, those whose values somewhat mirror our own. The problem with that is that it’s impossible. By supporting the “it could be worse” faction you’re also supporting the jihadist factions. It doesn’t matter if you only deliver weapons to secular or nationalistic members of the FSA because they’re supporting the cause of the majority jihadist faction in a unified hatred of Assad. Best case scenario, at the end of the conflict, if the FSA is triumphant then those weapons then go to whoever’s in charge of the FSA…which will be a bunch of jihadists who will murder minorities and get their jollies off through a bunch of “serve Allah or die” conversion attempts. Why will it be jihadists in charge? They have the numbers and they’re much better organized and supported.
Besides, once the weapons hit the Syrian border we have absolutely no control over what’s done with them. Remember all the Central American rebels we supported in the 80s that committed atrocities? Well, this is how those atrocities occurred.
Now, the results of this study are exactly what Assad has been claiming, that he’s fighting terrorism. Well, Assad may be a brutal dictator who brooks no dissent however he’s also not wrong. He is fighting terrorism because terrorism is at his door in the form of an army backed by Western, Saudi, and Qatari money and support. And, of course, none of what I’m saying means that Assad should be given a pass for gassing the rebel opposition but it should certainly give us pause before we declare support for this opposition simply because we despise him as well.
This is the way it is. It’s not some other way. It’s this way and now we have some real numbers to spell it out for the American people. It’s not encouraging.