Monday, 20 April 2015

The defense of inaction in Syria

 " “During every visit I was asked the same thing: Why has the world abandoned us? Why does nobody care?”

 The fashionable Washington answer to those questions today is that the world is doing nothing because nothing can be done. Muslims will kill Muslims, Sunni will hate Shia, and the civilized world must watch regretfully from the sidelines until the fever burns itself out.

 When Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad began waging war against what started as a peaceful movement for democracy, Obama could have authorized training for a moderate, multi-sectarian resistance. When Assad began dropping shrapnel-filled barrel bombs on apartment buildings full of children — the signature weapon of his war, as machetes were to the Rwandan genocide — Obama could have destroyed Assad’s helicopters or given the resistance the weapons to do so. He could have, with allies, offered air cover for a safe zone in northern Syria where people at least could find some refuge from Assad’s attacks.

 At each turn, many people, including his own advisers, warned that a failure to act would allow extremists to extend their sway. Now the fulfillment of those warnings — the presence of extremists — provides one more pretext for inaction.

 What’s different about Obama is his assertive defense of inaction. Shortly after his reelection, in an interview with the New Republic, he asked, “And how do I weigh tens of thousands who’ve been killed in Syria versus the tens of thousands who are currently being killed in the Congo?” Later in 2013, speaking to the United Nations, he defended U.S. reticence in Syria by asserting that defense of democracy and human rights was not a “core interest” of the United States — unlike, for example, ensuring “the free flow of energy.”
 Some may welcome this dry-eyed realism; after all, what good did Clinton’s admission of fault do the Tutsis? Better that people know not to await a U.S. rescue that is never going to come."

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