The director of the OU Center for Middle East Studes made the case Wednesday against a U.S. military intervention in Syria as the premiere guest speaker for the 2012 President's Associates Dinner series.
Josh Landis, an Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies, provided a detailed perspective on the Syrian crisis and made the case against U.S. involvement even as thousands of civilians have been killed and thousands more are fleeing the country each week.
An internationally renowned expert in Syrian studies and author of the blog "Syria Comment," Landis is also a regular consultant for the State Department and other agencies in Washington D.C.
Landis' topic, "Syria at the Crossroads," provided insight into the factors contributing to continued bloodshed, predictions as to the war-torn country's tenuous future and how these elements have alienated Syria from U.S. intervention.
"We could look across the entire United States and not find a more distinguished expert on Syria than Dr. Landis," said OU President David Boren. "We're very honored to have one of our own here tonight."
While many issues have risen to aggravate the crisis in Syria, one of the most predominant, according to Landis, is the fragmentation of Syrian society and thus its military opposition. Most of the military are loyal to the president, having been promoted in the ranks by the president.
"In many ways, this revolution, if it's to be successful, is going to have to come up with a national answer, and bind Syrians around a national, rather than tribal or sectarian idea," Landis said.
It is estimated there are more than 2,000 separate militias or military groups currently engaged in the conflict with President Assad's army, none of which are answering to any central command. According to Landis, this is one of the key elements in Assad's fragile but resilient dominion of religious minority.
"The Assad regime, as the last minoritarian government, is doomed ... but the struggle will be long and blood ... because minoritarian regimes do not like to lose and they will hang on with all they have," Landis said.
Landis said arguing for U.S. policy to be maintaining its distance from Syria is "the hardest part of his job" because his attitude is ever-changing.
"The reason to stay out is, Syria is not a nation. (The U.S.) has tried its hand at nation-building twice in the last decade with Iraq and Afghanistan, and neither worked out very well for us," Landis said.
Citing also the U.S. having a "radioactive" presence in the Middle East, Landis pointed out that Syria, as a country dominated by a young population buckling under an all-but-destroyed economy and educational system, is hardly fertile ground for democracy.
"In some ways, war is ironically a nation-building process, and Syria is going to have to resolve this for themselves," Landis said. "Syria's legacy is one of mercantile, cosmopolitan liberalism — people who know how to get along with others in the marketplace. Hopefully this legacy can be harnessed in the future to build a Syria that is strong and dynamic."