After the Roman Empire faded, Syria became part of the Christian Byzantine Empire 1,600 years ago, but it was seized by Muslims two centuries later. Christian Crusaders retook the region briefly, but again lost to Islam. Ottoman Turks held Syria until they were on the losing side in World War I, and France took control of Syria and Lebanon.
Colonialism ended, and France left Syria in the 1940s. Religio-ethnic violence and dictatorship have ensued ever since. When the Muslim Brotherhood mutinied in Hama in 1982, former dictator Hafez Assad ordered troops to exterminate an estimated 20,000 city residents and bulldoze large neighborhoods. After his death, he was succeeded by his ophthalmologist son, Bashar.
The new dictator belongs to the small Alawite sect, but is backed by Christians and Shiite Hezbollah -- against Sunni rebels that include al-Qaida extremists. West Virginian Connell concluded:
"Assad supporters believe they are fighting for their lives. If Assad is replaced by Sunni fundamentalists, the reprisals against Alawites and Christians could be genocidal."
"Let Allah sort it out," off-the-wall Republican Sarah Palin wrote this week. She called the Syria mess "yet another centuries-old internal struggle between violent radical Islamists and a murderous dictatorial regime, and we have no business getting involved."
Why must America be the world's only outside democracy to take sides in such a bloodbath? Will it help America to assist the rebellious Sunni fundamentalists? It seems a lose-lose situation.
Last week, a Reuters-Ipsos poll found that 56 percent of surveyed Americans don't want U.S. military intervention in Syria, while only 19 percent support it. Maybe the public is wiser than warlike "hawks" in Washington.