It has been a hard couple of years for advocates of international human rights, and respect for international law of which they form a part. Since the hopes of the 2009 Green Movement in Iran, and the Arab Spring beginning in Tunisia in February, 2011, the struggle for democracy and the rule of law in the Middle East, and elsewhere, has suffered grievous setbacks.
We can only imagine what Europe would be like today had Serbia and Milosovic and Karadzic not been stopped, eventually by the use of military force when that was ultimately required. Actually, long after it was required, when the U.S. and NATO got around to it.
Now we must imagine a future in which Iran, al-Assad, Hezbollah, and Russia, with their ally in the League of Authoritarian States, China, stand triumphant.
One can try to imagine what Europe would have been like had Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich been left standing after World War II. Jean Monnet’s dream of a united Europe would have been unthinkable, for example.
So, after World War II, we had the vision of international peace and security which was embodied in the United Nations Charter. For 65 years we pursued the goals set forth in the Charter, without ever admitting they were beyond our reach.
But now, as the Middle East is swept into a vortex that is every bit as dangerous as the Balkans in the summer of 1914, that dream of a world made up of democracies governed by the rule of law, and nation states continuously developing treaties and legal institutions in order to achieve in concrete form the goal of peace, appears to be receding.
The dream, after all, can only survive so long as it is shared by the leaders of the world and their peoples.
Now, however, the enemies of that dream — Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Russia, and China (which include the core members of the League of Authoritarian States) — are fighting successfully to replace its hopes with the guns and missiles and bombs and knives of the repression which they represent.
The rest of the world, including those countries which have or aspire to attain democracy and the rule of law, appear to be asleep.
Meanwhile, Iran is defeating the allies of the United States in a hot war in Syria, as Russia resumes its former role of being the ultimate friend of despotic states. The war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed by al-Assad and his allies in Syria do not move the Kremlin, which has itself done worse in recent times in Chechnya, not to speak of its atrocities in the 20th century. China is sending troops to participate in the U.N. force in Mali, which is a welcome sign, but will not budge on its support of Russia on Syria.
If that were not enough, the head of the African Union on the 50th anniversary of its founding has accused the International Criminal Court of hunting Africans out of racist motives, notwithstanding the fact that the new head prosecutor of the court is from The Gambia. Together the dictators and autocrats of Africa have taken a stand against the ICC’s prosecution of the newly elected President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, who has been indicted for crimes against humanity.
So, we can forget all that talk about “the responsibility to protect”, as darker days lie before us in a world where Bashar al-Assad stands triumphant, Vladimir Putin (“the executioner of the Caucasus”) stands triumphant, and the clouds of looming war blacken the skies in which our future hopes might otherwise reside.
The leaders of the West of today, and Barack Obama first among them, will long be remembered as having faced the moment of truth in the struggle between the forces of freedom and those of darkness–who are supporting and committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, firing artillery and tanks and bombs on innocent civilian populations—and having shrugged their shoulders and walked away from the battle.
This has been going on now for over two years.
We are witnessing a whole generation of Neville Chamberlains and Éduouard Daladiers in action, with not a single Winston Churchill to be found.
Who does President Obama remind you of more, Winston Churchill or Neville Chamberlain?
Syria does not concern them. Just as Germany and Japan did not concern the democratic nations of the world in 1936 or 1938, and just as the raging civil war in Spain in the 1930’s did not concern them, in which Fascist Germany and Fascist Italy supported Franco’s forces against the Republican armies, while the democracies of Europe hid behind their purported obligations of neutrality.
Iran and Russia appear to have taken the measure of Barack Obama and the resolve of the West, and decided as a result to back al-Assad to the hilt. Iran must now be highly confident that neither the United States nor Israel will engage in any military action that could inflict damage sufficient to halt their onward march toward the acquisition of nuclear weapons.
For the moment, Iran and Hezbollah and al-Assad and the Russians are winning in Syria, and beyond.
The Trenchant Observer