The main reason that the international community has cited against intervening in Syria has been a lack of unity within the rebels. The rationale goes that although al-Assad is clearly a despot, letting the Free Syrian Army or other disunited rebel groups run the country could further destabilize the nation.
Even Libya and Tunisia’s interim presidents have denounced foreign intervention in Syria, including arming the rebels, on the grounds that it is currently unclear how representative and unified the Syrian rebels are. Yet, this argument reeks of hypocrisy. Were not the Libyan rebels disunited in their fight against Gadhafi and ceaseless appeals for foreign interventions? Nonetheless, after Gadhafi’s fall, the rebels were able to compromise and create an interim government. Why then does the international community keep insisting that the lack of unity in the rebels makes them unfit to follow al-Assad’s rule?
The fact of the matter is that unlike the Arab Springs in Libya, when the international community was more or less united against Gadhafi, al-Assad staying in power in Syria would benefit many nations in one way or another.
For much of the West, especially the United States, the Arab Springs have brought up the frightening question of whether or not secularism is more important than democracy. The secular autocrats that have been overthrown have been replaced with popularly elected Islamist governments. In particular, the Muslim Brotherhood has risen to prominence. This scares the West, of course, because the Muslim Brotherhood group has historically relied on terrorism to spread its values of Sharia law. In fact, the Muslim Brotherhood gave birth to radical groups al Qaeda and Hamas.
Post Arab Spring nations who support the rise of Islamism oppose the Arab Springs for other reasons. Most likely, the leaders in these nations have noted the economic impacts of revolt. While rebellion against a government has always led to at least a decade of economic uncertainty, it seems that this fact only materialized to the rebels once the regime was actually overthrown. Tourism-driven Tunisia and Egypt in particular have had particularly hard economic times as tourists have been worried about the stability of the nations.
The economic cost in Syria, in particular, will be monumental. Business, particularly in conflict zones such as Homs and Aleppo have been closed for nearly two years now and looting in the rest of the country in the absence of authority has been widespread.
Thus, while the argument that the lack of unity within the Syrian rebel groups is skeptical, the fact remains that there are grave challenges to an overthrow of the al-Assad regime in Syria. It seems that an Islamist regime and economic paralysis would negate and benefits for democracy that such an uprising has had. As such, the international community is justified in refusing to intervene in Syria as they had in the much more clear-cut case of Libya.