Strike on Syria seen differently in Arab world, says UR professor

Chris Post/Associated Press
August 30, 2013

Western powers are considering a possible strike against the Syrian government over the apparent use of chemical weapons last week. An anthropology professor in upstate New York has weighed in saying the move would draw skeptical reactions from  the Arab world.

“Generally there is not a lot of enthusiasm for western intervention in postcolonial countries.”

Thomas Gibson is a professor of anthropology at the University of Rochester, and he’s speaking there about the possibility of a western strike in response to the situation in Syria.

An apparent chemical weapons attack near the capital Damascus is reported to have killed hundreds of people and a team of United Nations experts is currently investigating the incident.

Amid calls for international action from the UK, President Obama has said that no decision has been made, but a strike against the Assad regime is a possibility.

In an interview with PBS NewsHour on Wednesday Obama admitted that action from the west won’t solve the problem in Syria, but he says it would send a strong signal that chemical warfare won’t be tolerated.

But, Gibson says any move from the west is going to be viewed through a very different historical lens in the Arab world.

“People in the Middle-East will not interpret whatever we do as the product of humanitarianism. They will interpret it in a somewhat cynical way as what is in the national interest of the western powers.”

Gibson says western powers need to keep in mind that their actions will be filtered through long memories of western domination in postcolonial countries.