The Precise Moment Syria’s Civil War Could Have Been Stopped Before It Started

Dispatches from the front.
June 10 2014 12:25 PM

How to Turn a Small Protest Into a Civil War

The moment Assad’s Syria changed forever. 

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Last year, Brooklyn Brewery launched an interview series at its brewhouse in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in conjunction with RISC, a nonprofit that offers instruction on life-saving skills for freelance war journalists. The conversations were an instant hit.

For its second season, Slate partnered with the brewery to film the series. Each month we’ll release our favorite excerpts from the conversations. In this first installment, Steve Hindy, founder of Brooklyn Brewery and a former Associated Press foreign correspondent, sits down with Deborah Amos, NPR's Middle East correspondent and the author of Eclipse of the Sunnis. See earlier segments on watching Richard III with Bashar al-Assad, the fallen culture of Iraq, and what it’s like to stand 50 yards from an exploding car bomb.

“He could have stopped it in its infancy.”

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Deborah Amos details the Syrian civil war’s first days, explaining how small protests in the farming town of Daraa—and the Assad regime’s unnecessarily violent response to them—would become the spark that lit the flame of war. Amos also talks about the difficulty in covering the early stages of the revolt—first because of the unexpected, organic nature of the Daraa protests, then as a result of Assad’s crackdown on foreign correspondents operating within the country.

Above, Amos reflects on the shock felt by most journalists when, upon reentering Syria in 2012, they discovered how much more radical the rebels had become. She speaks of the divide between global perception and reality on the ground, and how it was nearly impossible to cover some aspects of the conflict, like the growing influence of jihadist factions, without actually being there, in Syria, seeing it firsthand.

A.J. McCarthy is a Slate video blogger.

Ayana Morali is the co-executive producer of Slate V.