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Majid Rafizadeh Headshot

Is the World Collectively Guilty?

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Image courtesy of Wikimedia Creative Commons.

The world may have been able to pretend that it was not aware of the genocides taking place in Germany in the 1930s and '40s or in Rwanda in the 1990s. However, considering all the communication technology that exists today -- international news outlets, social media, YouTube etc. -- in the future we won't be able to claim that we didn't know about the massacre currently taking place in Syria. Will we continue to delude our collective human consciences into believing we didn't know? Are we collectively responsible?

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Image courtesy of Wikimedia Creative Commons.

As usual, I called my mother and family living in the district of Old Damascus, Syria, to see how everyone was doing. Sometimes I heard some news about the recent gunshots, kidnappings, bombings and killings taking place in Damascus. Some of theses instances included explosions in the public square not far from my family's home which shattered the windows. When I usually call my home I am updated about the most recent deaths and injuries. Last time I called, those figures actually included my brother's wife and two children. An explosion outside their building caused the windows in the kitchen to shatter and the roof to collapse as they were preparing dinner, resulting in injuries all over their faces and bodies. Government paramedics rushed them and the other injured people to the hospital, taking care of all the hospital expenses. They blamed the bombing on terrorists groups that they claim have permeated Damascus. This was not the first incident that resulted in the deaths and injuries of children. We were grateful that the children were still alive.

As a nation, Syria will not forget 13-year-old Hamza Khatib, whose body was returned to his family after being burned and mutilated. As a nation, Syria will never forget those children in Daraa who sparked the revolution and were tortured for spraying anti-governmental graffiti throughout the city. As a nation, many Syrian will not forget the tragic massacre of 49 children in the city of Houla.

As I follow the developments in Syria, two facts are clear. First, the Syrian people will not be forced into submission through brute force. They will brave the bullets and guns and sacrifice their lives knowing that, until now, more than 10,000 of their countrymen have been killed. Second, Syria has formidable allies who support the Assad regime and consequently embolden and empower him regardless of the level of violence that he is inflicting on the country.

It is becoming clear that in Damascus people have stopped believing the regime's propaganda. They whisper amongst themselves about how the regime has deployed these tactics to inflict fear on the people. Our family is only one infinitesimal example of the thousands of peaceful Syrian protesters who have struggled for freedom, dignity, and respect -- many paying with their lives. Unfortunately, people continue to go about their lives with the daily worry of when and where the next explosion will occur.

What can be done to resolve the crisis? There have been several suggestions made by political analysts, heads of Persian Gulf nations and Syrian oppositional groups. Some include providing safe havens for victims of violence on the northern and southern borders of Syria, creating humanitarian corridors, assisting refugees and wounded people, and providing monetary support for refugees. More militaristic options include arming the Free Syrian Army and/or giving coordination assistance in their fight with the regime. These are good suggestions, but all this analysis ignores one crucial fact: Without the leadership of the U.S., it is highly unlikely that any state or coalition of forces will succeed in stopping the bloodshed in Syria. This was true in the cases of Bosnia, Kosovo, and Rwanda as well. Substantial changes only took place after the U.S. decided to take the lead. This notion might contradict the perceptions and predictions of pundits and scholars who have been forecasting the end of the U.S. and its decline for years, as well as asserting that the U.S. is an imperialist nation. If the U.S. does not take a leadership role, concrete action will not be taken. Without the U.S. leading from behind, the removal of Gaddafi by rebel forces may not have been possible, at least not so quickly and easily. Without U.S. support, we may still have been witnessing the fight between Gaddafi and opposition groups as well as bloodshed and loss of many lives.

In a post-conference interview in Iran, a Libyan activist asserted that Libyan people are looking for democracy and the rule of law, and thanked the United States for helping the people in overthrowing Gaddafi. Although Bill Clinton expressed his regrets for taking action late to prevent the 1994 slaughter in Rwanda, change did not take place on the ground until the U.S. decided to take lead and put boots on the ground.

I am not suggesting that U.S. should initiate wars with Syria or other sovereign states; however, I am saying that until the international community agrees on and initiates a course of action nothing will change in Syria. It is understandable that the U.S. is more than hesitant to get involved in a new confrontation taking into account the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Given that, is it possible that any other nations or coalition of states like Turkey or the GCC will go a step further than pure rhetoric and exhibit leadership in resolving the human crisis in Syria?