Word of another massacrein Syria yesterday has made it clear to even the biggest fans of theU.N. that Ban Ki-moon’s ceasefire effort is a complete failure. In thelatest government atrocity, 70 Syrians, more than half of them women andchildren, were murdered in an attack similar to the even more grotesqueatrocity that happened last month. United Nations observers whoattempted 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 muchhas 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 inthe dock at the International Criminal Court somewhere down the road. That’s a fairly smallstick 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 resolutefor over a year that there should be no outside intervention in Syrianaffairs. It’s not hard to fathom why. Neither nation wants a precedentfor intervention in the affairs of an autocratic regime, no matter howbloody things get. The idea hits a little too close to home.
So what’s the solution? The UN is gearing up for more internationalefforts, including a “contact group” which will try to pressure Russiainto taking a stand. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Clinton is shoutingfrom 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 onlycivilized way to deal with thorny problems, especially problems in the Middle East. Barack Obama was presented as an antidote to the unilateralcowboy-ism of George W. Bush. Progressives can certainly point to thedecade of mayhem in Iraq as proof of their point, but they seem to havemissed the other side of the ledger. As Syria demonstrates so vividly,internationalism isn’t without its own body count and its own grislyimages of violence and death. Estimates say that around 13,000 have beenkilled in the last year in Syria, and that count is going to skyrocketif the situation devolves into a full-on civil war, something everyonefrom Ban Ki-moon on down admits is an imminent possibility.
Meanwhile, the most powerful nation on earth stands aside to avoidoffending the totalitarian communists in China and Putin’s strongmanthugocracy in Russia. And what has our deference bought us? Where is thegoodwill 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 deadwomen and children wrapped in sheets and blankets, it seems to me the world is sorely in need of a cowboy about now.