Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Return to Arrogance!

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.

Tuesday January 1, 2013

Today’s Death Toll: 136, including 6 women and 16 children: 42 in Damascus and suburbs, 44 in Hama including 23 martyrs from the village of Maan and 16 from Hasraya, 15 in Deir Ezzor including 9 unidentified martyrs in the village of Hatla, 12 martyrs in Homs including an entire family from Deir Baalba, 8 in Daraa, 9 in Aleppo, 4 in Idlib, 1 in Lattakia, and 1 in Raqqa. Points of Random Shelling: 287: 22 areas were subjected to aerial shelling. In 5 areas, the LCC documented barrel bombing, 2 areas were subjected to cluster bombs; and 1 area was subjected to thermobaric bombing. Mortar shelling was reported in 125 areas and followed by artillery shelling in 98 locations. 38 areas were subjected to indiscriminate missile attacks. Clashes: 133. In Damascus, rebels downed a MiG in Eastern Ghouta and liberated the Khansaa School, which represents the first line of defense at Wadi Al-Deif and the regime withdrew from the checkpoints at Al-Hameh and Al-Bouhamid. In RAqqa, rebels were able to seize control of the Toubian gas field in southern Raqqa. In Hama, rebels repelled a military convoy that was heading to Mourek. In Aleppo, rebels seized control of most of the military airports and issued a warning that they would target the international airport in Aleppo (LCCs).


Special Reports
Many people in the Russian foreign-policy establishment believe that the string of U.S.-led interventions that resulted in regime change since the end of the Cold War — in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya — are a threat to the stability of the international system and potentially to “regime stability” in Russia itself. Russia did not give its imprimatur to these interventions, and will never do so if it suspects the motive is removal of a sitting government. The notion that Russia could eventually be the target of such an intervention might seem absurd in Washington, but suspicion of potential future U.S. intentions runs deep in Moscow. Therefore, Russia uses what power it has to shape the international system — particularly, its permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council — to avoid creating a dangerous precedent that could eventually be used against it.
“There are many in the opposition who believe that Israeli concerns over change in Syria are, in part at least, behind the lack of a more proactive response by the international community to the situation in Syria,” said Ammar Abdulhamid, a Syrian pro-democracy activist. Abdulhamid is a fellow at Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a non-partisan Washington think tank that serves as an academic home for many neo-conservative thinkers. The group has emerged as one of the key players in forging ties with the budding Syrian opposition and urging a more active U.S. role in bringing about the demise of the Assad regime… “The agreed line by the opposition is that the status quo in the Golan Heights will be maintained until conditions permit for organizing peace talks,” said Abdulhamid, referring to Israel’s occupation of that area since the 1967 Six Day War. This approach could satisfy Jewish and pro-Israel groups whose focus on Syria’s future government in any event prioritizes other concerns.
With all the absurdities of war, we still felt like something was missing in receiving the new year. But with barely eight guests in the hotel, the bar and cafe had been closed for months. So we ordered two coups of champagne from room service, and held up our glasses for better days.

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.

Video Highlights

Leaked video shows pro-Assad militias killing two captives by stabbing them repeatedly laughing all the while 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.