Word of another massacre
in Syria yesterday has made it clear to even the biggest fans of the
U.N. that Ban Ki-moon's ceasefire effort is a complete failure. In the
latest government atrocity, 70 Syrians, more than half of them women and
children, were murdered in an attack similar to the even more grotesque
atrocity that happened last month. United Nations observers who
attempted to reach the area were reportedly shot at.
Ban Ki-moon described the previous massacre, which killed 108 people,
as a "tipping point." But this new massacre suggests that nothing much
has changed. Ki-moon issued another grand understatement saying the latest attack "may amount to crimes against humanity." There is an implied threat, of course, that Assad could end up in
the dock at the International Criminal Court somewhere down the road. That's a fairly small
stick to wave while people are being rounded up and shot by the score.
The people who could actually stop this are the governments of China and Russia. Both have remained resolute
for over a year that there should be no outside intervention in Syrian
affairs. It's not hard to fathom why. Neither nation wants a precedent
for intervention in the affairs of an autocratic regime, no matter how
bloody things get. The idea hits a little too close to home.
So what's the solution? The UN is gearing up for more international
efforts, including a "contact group" which will try to pressure Russia
into taking a stand. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Clinton is shouting
from the sidelines for Assad to leave the country as part of an orderly transition process. But why would Assad do so as long as he's got the Russian trump card in his hand?
Just a few years ago we were told that internationalism was the only
civilized way to deal with thorny problems, especially problems in the Middle East. Barack Obama was presented as an antidote to the unilateral
cowboy-ism of George W. Bush. Progressives can certainly point to the
decade of mayhem in Iraq as proof of their point, but they seem to have
missed the other side of the ledger. As Syria demonstrates so vividly,
internationalism isn't without its own body count and its own grisly
images of violence and death. Estimates say that around 13,000 have been
killed in the last year in Syria, and that count is going to skyrocket
if the situation devolves into a full-on civil war, something everyone
from Ban Ki-moon on down admits is an imminent possibility.
Meanwhile, the most powerful nation on earth stands aside to avoid
offending the totalitarian communists in China and Putin's strongman
thugocracy in Russia. And what has our deference bought us? Where is the
goodwill being shown for our restraint? I must have missed the upside,
but it's not hard to see the downside. Looking at the video of the dead
women and children wrapped in sheets and blankets, it seems to me the world is sorely in need of a cowboy about now.