Of late, large-scale political protests around the world have focused almost entirely on human rights. Ironically, though, in the fight to power rebels have consistently violated human rights temporarily. This begs the question: When such acts in a rebellion can be justified?
Yesterday, pictures emerged showing Syrian rebels including the U.S.-funded Free Syrian Army torturing ten al-Assad regime soldiers. This is not the first time that such pictures have emerged; in August, too, such footage came out.
It remains unclear how the United States will respond to these atrocities. A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department said yesterday, “Anyone committing atrocities should be held to account.” The United States, though, has been cautious to withdraw aid to the rebel groups. It appears likely that the U.S. will attempt a leadership overhaul of the Free Syrian Army in a conference in Qatar next week.
The issue, though, is that the Syrian rebels are extremely nationalistic and it appears that generals did not order this torture. In the future, too, these rebels will likely disobey orders from leaders and go to any means necessary to overthrow the al-Assad regime.
What kind of government can the U.S. government expect these nationalistic rebels to institute if they do overthrow al-Assad? The U.S. and much of the international community is pessimistic. They were pessimistic, too about the post-regime governments in Egypt and Libya. Those governments, though, appear to be democratic and in favor of upholding human rights, for the time being at least. Pro-regime supporters were unfairly punished after the revolution, but that has happened in every revolution to date including the moderate American Revolution which led to the exodus of 80,000 loyalists.
So, the United States and the international community should not, as they currently are, view the human rights abuses by the Free Syrian Army as proof that a post-regime government there would be oppressive. Instead, they should view the Free Syrian Army’s recent steps as temporary sacrifices. Their human rights abuses will likely have lasted no longer than three or four years since the al-Assad regime seems close to falling. If the Free Syrian Army uses these human rights abuses as a necessary evil to gain power and end indefinite human rights abuses under al-Assad, the United States and the international community should respond with greater economic and military assistance.