We don’t need America to be the world’s “top cop,” we just need her, and each member of the global community, to realize that there are certain humanitarian and moral obligations that they simply cannot ignore without major consequences for all. Leadership is not convenient, and often it is not even a choice, at least not in the ethical sense.
Return to Arrogance
In his defense of the Obama Administration’s stance on Syria, Aaron David Miller makes this “erudite” argument:
We should not be the world’s top cop or caseworker, charged with fixing every calamity. We don’t control history. And it’s time we attend to our own broken house instead of running around the world trying to repair everyone else’s.
This is the kind of argument that was probably made by the American aristocracy in the first half of the 20th Century regarding “intervention” in certain parts of their country and their cities. It was wrong then, not to mention classicist and racist, it is wrong now, and equally classicist and racist. This is world has grown too small and our destinies too interlocked for this kind of argument to be of any relevance or make any sense.
Indeed, not long ago, international leaders acknowledged this fact by endorsing a new legal notion designed to help them tackle exactly the kind of scenarios currently unfolding in Syria: The Responsibility to Protect. Of course, now, all are rushing to bury their heads in the sand, making up all different sorts of justifications as they go along. But world leaders, especially the American leader, cannot escape culpability and responsibility.
After all, all acknowledged the Assad regime’s role in the assassination of former Lebanese PM, Rafic Al-Hariri and his ongoing support for a variety of terrorist organizations around the world, especially in Iraq and Lebanon. Yet, with encouragement from the Democratic Establishment in the United States (under the leadership of Senator John Kerry and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi), even before Senator Obama became President, the world abandoned its policy of isolating the Assad regime and began circulating the idea that he was a reformer in the face of all evidence to the contrary. President Obama pursued this policy of rapprochement down to the dawn of the Revolution.
American officials were willing to ignore facts in order to pursue an illusion, and now they are doing the same. The facts of the Syrian Revolution are simple: this was not a sectarian movement, nor a civil war nor a radical uprising. But through dithering and downright cowardice, it was allowed to degenerate into the mayhem we see today because Assad was given every leeway to crackdown with impunity.
Miller is right in noting that the situation in Syria was quite different from Libya and that intervention in Syria is a more complicated affair and carries more risks. But the ethical imperative for the intervention and for America’s leadership in this matter is nonetheless clear. President Obama might want to turn his back on this, and he is not alone of course, but do spare us your hypocritical rationalizations.
Leaked video shows pro-Assad militias killing two captives by stabbing them repeatedly laughing all the while http://youtu.be/PBHtjwXQUCQ It’s atrocities likes these coupled with global indifference that helped transform the nonviolent protest movement into a sectarian conflict. But indifference and hand-wringing in the face of such impunity will beget a backlash sooner or later, at which time the perennial “why do they hate us?” will make it usual appearance, and I doubt there will many sympathizers.