During the early stages of the attempted coup in Turkey, the United States came out in support of the "democratically elected government"

Putting aside any judgements on if this was the best thing to do, could a similar policy in Syria have ensured that the rebellion in Syria was quickly put down, saving hundreds of thousands of lives?

Has no-one ever suggested this course of action? I cannot see objections based on principle given the principles that were violated by supporting Turkey and its subsequent crack down on coup-plotters.

  • 1
    Syria does not have a democratically elected government, and according to our monopolar internationalized western worldview, they can't be the legitimate government of the country. Dec 6, 2016 at 14:47
  • Someone did talk about it: foxnews.com/politics/2016/04/28/…
    – stackex555
    Dec 7, 2016 at 10:00
  • @hownowbrowncow: Syria claims to be a republic. Contrary to monarchies like Saudi Arabia. Dec 7, 2016 at 18:44
  • @MartinSchröder but "thats their culture" and they have a lot of oil ;) Dec 7, 2016 at 18:52
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    In order to state support of a democratically elected government, doesn't one need a democratically elected government? Dec 7, 2016 at 21:19

4 Answers 4


You need to note the current Syrian conflict had started with Arab Spring while the Turkey crisis was caused by a coup d'état attempt. As @SteveMelnikoff explained, the US government didn't like the current Syrian government and actually supported the Arab Spring as follows.

...He (President Obama) contrasted the ideology of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, recently killed by US Navy SEALS, with that of pro-democracy protesters in the Middle East and North Africa, saying: "By the time we found bin Laden, al Qaeda’s agenda had come to be seen by the vast majority of the region as a dead end, and the people of the Middle East and North Africa had taken their future into their own hands." Obama praised the demonstrators, comparing their efforts to bring about reform to the actions of the Boston Tea Party and Rosa Parks in American history.

(emphasis mine)

The situation in Syria is completely different from that of Turkey. The US wanted and still wants to see the Syrian government overthrown, but it never wants any instability in Turkey which is very important for the US interests.

  • Ah. So, it's legitimate to make a soundbite that Obama compared ISIS to Rosa Parks. (heading over to create a Facebook account, mentally counting advertizing revenue)
    – user4012
    Dec 6, 2016 at 21:23
  • Thanks for pointing out that connection with the Arab Spring, which raises another question altogther - it seems that the Arab Spring went out of control and spiralled into a humanitarian nightmare that benefited no-one in the end - not Egypt, not Syria, not Libya and not least of all the United States and Europe. Everyone lost. But back to the question "Why didn't anyone talk about.. " - well not many in the Obama presidency talked about it but the next president may be different: see edition.cnn.com/2016/08/16/opinions/…
    – stackex555
    Dec 7, 2016 at 9:55

The US described the 2012 parliamentary election in Syria as "bordering on ludicrous", while the presidential election in 2007 only featured one candidate.

So it seems likely that the US didn't regard the Syrian government as being democratically elected.

In any case, this is a horrendously complex conflict, and this is only one of many factors which must have influenced the US's view of the situation.

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    Several countries have had elections with only one candidate, (for example fomer Soviet Union) however if a rebellion arose that threatened to cause mass bloodshed I am not sure that the the U.S. would supply arms to make that happen. I am not sure anyone has even suggested supporting Assad - is this groupthink?
    – stackex555
    Dec 6, 2016 at 12:11
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    I don't know; you'd have to ask the governments in question. As I said, it's complicated. But if you wanted to boil it down to one thing, it would be this: the West doesn't like Assad, and wants him gone. The West isn't that keen on the current Turkish government either, but needs to retain its support in order to avoid Turkey moving all its Syrian refugees into Europe. Dec 6, 2016 at 12:16
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    I thought the US pretty much did arm anti-Soviet rebels at every opportunity, especially in Afghanistan in the 70s. In some ways this is carrying on: Assad is the Russian-backed leader, so the US is happy to fund rebellion against him.
    – pjc50
    Dec 6, 2016 at 17:02

Keep in mind that very early in the Syrian civil war, the regime was engaged in war crimes directed at its people, including chemical weapons directed at residential neighborhoods. This delegitimatized the Basar regime whose democratic credentials were in any case not credible.


Obama administration agenda of quick installation of a pro-democratic puppet did not anticipate such an "open" Russian support. The idea of peaceful resolution was never on the table from either side.

While Russia benefits from destabilized Middle Eastern situation as it increases the oil prices + boosts Russia's defense spending, for the US to stop support of democratic separatists would mean to acknowledging defeat (being a superpower it is hard thing to do). (Though I wonder - do some the parties supporting president Trump also benefit from increased oil prices?)

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