The international community is leaving Syria, a move which could spell doom for Syrian civilians and even the region as the Syrian civil war continues to spiral.
So where does Syria go from here? Every major Arab Spring event has been marked by a significant grassroots effort, especially one in which social media was utilized. In the Syrian rebels hope to draw the Western world to their cause, then such a grassroots campaign must develop.
And one already has, though it isn’t traditional: Ridiculously Photogenic Syrian Soldier, and his nonchalant walk and perfectly coiffed hair. Facebook helped win the Egyptian revolution. A meme can do the same for Syria.
The meme of Ridiculously Photogenic Syrian Soldier is based on a photo of an unidentified fighter, complete with RPG casually resting on his shoulder, taken by Khalil Hamra near Idlib in Syria on June 15. Since the pic has been meme-ized, thousands of renditions have been created, shared by millions on the web.
This is the sort of viral sensation Syria needs.
The last United Nations observers left in Syria are preparing to leave on Saturday, as their official mission ends Sunday at midnight. As the Associated Press reports, most observers should be out of the country within hours. There were about 300 observers in the civil-war-torn country at the peak of the mission earlier this year; that number is down to about 100 now. Conditions for the mission's possible extension — including ending the Syrian government's use of heavy weapons — have not been met, and the UN plans instead to open a small liaison office to continue peace efforts.
Syria could, in effect, become the worst casualty in the Arab Spring protests. What started as a fight for democracy has now turned into pure chaos. One must wonder about the endgame here: Without the international community, how will things play out?
In the biggest foreign policy crisis of the day, the U.S. has remained on the sidelines. Aside from occasional debates between China and Russia at the United Nations Security Council, the U.S. hasn’t engaged in any sort of intervention — humanitarian, military, or diplomatic.
This inaction comes a year after the U.S. was heavily involved in the Libyan civil war, a crisis America and NATO forces engaged in because they felt the situation was about to spin out of control.
Analyst very much believe that Assad is on the brink , and that the Free Syrian Army (FSA) will win out. Still, as was seen when rebels retreated from the siege in Aleppo last week, the FSA does not have the firepower to out-gun Assad’s government forces. Syrian rebels have already said they'd "turn to Al-Qaeda is the West fails them ..." which the West is currently doing.
This situation parallels the Libya situation: Gaddafi’s force were able to push rebel forces out of the way with superior military units … until Western forces intervened, saving Gaddafi from running amok in the country and massacring any rebel populations.
But there won’t be that same foreign intervention in Syria.
American taste for battle is sour, and President Barack Obama wouldn’t risk a foreign policy disaster ahead of the November election.
Momentum, then, must instead come from grassroots efforts. Think of the social media viral sensations that happened in the Egyptian revolution, for African warlord Joseph Kony and Kony2012, and even for social justice issues like Trayvon Martin. Each of these events saw a moment of social media being used virally, creating an uproar among media and the public, and prompting the government to start making big decisions. Ridicuously Photogenic Syrian Soldier, and viral campaigns like this, could prove the difference for Syria, helping raise awareness and keep Syria on the minds of the American electorate.
If it takes a chiseled jaw line, a steel gaze, and some witty quote to stop Assad’s massacres, then so be it. The messaging is simple, but powerful. The rallying cry is customizable, but always heroic. The delivery is more fluid than any diplomatic envoy. A meme can change everything.
Stand with Ridiculously Photogenic Syrian Soldier. Help Syria find peace and end war. Help this man drop his weapons and finally find love in the country he is so passionately defending.
A meme can save Syria.