One of the nastiest practical consequences of the Syrian civil war for the West may very well be its radicalizing effect. We’ve already noted how Syria’s own rebels are increasingly turning to jihadist rhetoric and fundamentalist Islam as an organizing principle. Now comes word from a doctor from Médecins Sans Frontières, who just returned from Aleppo, that as many as half the rebel fighters he treated were of foreign origin:
“It’s really something strange to see. They are directly saying that they aren’t interested in Bashar al-Assad’s fall, but are thinking about how to take power afterwards and set up an Islamic state with sharia law to become part of the world Emirate,” the doctor said.The foreign jihadists included young Frenchmen who said they were inspired by Mohammed Merah, a self-styled Islamist militant from Toulouse, who killed seven people in March in the name of al-Qaeda.
Though we’ve always maintained that there are no good options in Syria, stories like these highlight that the non-interventionist road, quite apart from the humanitarian consequences, is also fraught with dangers for concrete U.S. interests. Syria could become the next Afghanistan or Chechnya—a theater where young Islamist hot-heads become tested, battle-hardened veterans. With nearly the entire political and media class in the United States spellbound by the spectacle of the presidential elections, Via Meadia hopes some hardy souls in the bowels of the Pentagon, the State Department and perhaps a few other US government agencies have their eyes firmly on the ball in Syria.