Repression in Syria, and the spread of universal ideals throughout the world

NATO and Libya

Fortunately, NATO has begun to act more like a powerful military alliance willing to use its power in Libya, and the insurgents have beaten back Qaddafi’s troops from the outskirts of Misurata. Continued forceful action by NATO will be necessary to carry out U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973, calling on the nations of the world to protect the civilian population of Libya “by all necessary measures”.


Grave crimes are being committed now in Syria, as the Bashar al-Assad regime demonstrates that, like Qaddafi’s regime, it is willing to slaughter its own people if necessary to retain its hold on power.

It is unlikely that the Security Council will authorize another military intervention to protect the civilian population of Syria against the grave and widespread human rights abuses the regime is now committing.

So, what can be done by the international community?

First, the U.N. Security Council can at least condemn the repression currently underway in Syria.

Second, the Security Council should also refer cases of potential commission of crimes against humanity and war crimes to the International Criminal Court for investigation and eventual prosecution. The focus should be on the individuals responsible for ordering and carrying out the atrocities that have been and are being committed.

Al-Assad himself should not be immune from any such investigation, and the facts should be allowed to speak for themselves. Whatever hopes may have been placed in Bashar al-Assad when he assumed power following the death of his father, Hafez al-Assad—himself responsible for the slaughter of 10-25,000 people at Hama in 1982—it is clear that these hopes have now become but futile illusions in view events on the ground in Syria.

No one should be fooled for an instant by talk of reforms while Assad’s tanks are attacking civilian neighborhoods.

Evidence should be gathered and kept safe for future use. The names of units, the names of individuals commanding those units, the dates and times and locations of the actions they are undertaking, and the names and descriptions of their victims should be, and will be, collected.

It may take 10 or even 20 years, but every member of the security forces of Syria should be made to understand that—unlike what has occurred in the past—their names will be recorded, investigations will be conducted by the International Criminal Court and by other national courts, and one day they will be brought to justice, whether in Syria or by prosecutors and courts in foreign countries. They should know that, within 5 or 10 years, they will not be able to travel freely outside of Syria because there will be international arrest warrants out for their capture, indictment, and prosecution.

Somewhere, sometime, justice will catch up with them.

The Dawn of a New Era in History?

We can now see that certain epochs in history have come to a close. The cold war ended in 1991 after the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 and Boris Yeltsin put down a counterrevolution by communist and military forces in Russia in 1991.

Its aftermath extended perhaps until September 11, 2001, when the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington set off an intense battle against Al Qaida and those who harbored them, such as the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Now, with the death of Osama Bin Laden and the Arab Spring of 2011, it has become clear that the people of the Arab countries of the Middle East and North Africa want democratic freedoms, economic opportunity and a better life–just like their counterparts in the rest of the world.

The post anti-terrorist era has begun.

While terrorist threats will remain extremely serious and must be addressed, terrorism is not likely to define international politics in the coming years as it has largely done over the last decade.

New battle lines have been drawn.

And times have changed. The United States and the Western Powers were unable to intervene to protect the civilian populations of Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968 against the onslaught of Soviet tanks, because the Soviet Union had very large armed forces that could threaten Western Europe, and nuclear weapons that raised the possibility of escalation to nuclear war.

No such large land armies and military forces that could threaten Europe exist in the countries of the Arab Middle East and North Africa today.

Today we can see clearly the dividing lines between nations, between the democracies and those countries that at least are moving in transitions toward democracy, on the one hand, and those countries such as Libya and Syria which employ terror against their own citizens to retain their hold on power, on the other.

See The Trenchant Observer, “The Struggle for Democracy in Bolivia, Spain, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Lebanon, Ivory Coast, and Iran,”
March 3, 2011

What has changed is the spread throughout the human population of universal ideals of respect for the human person, observance of fundamental human rights by governments, and a demand for democratic government and accountability. There are new demands for an end to corruption in closed societies, in which new generations see their chances for advancement blocked by those who cling to power by terror and the use of force.

The advent and exponential growth in penetration of the Internet, satellite television, mobile phones, and the ever-quickening pace of technological change itself, particularly in regards to communications and connections among people, have spread ideas and ideals, deepened awareness of events in other parts of the world, accelerated demands for change, and made it increasingly hard to hide acts of barbarism behind walls of secrecy.

The new battle lines have been drawn. Now we can see in sharp relief that our greatest opponents are those who use state terror and mass crimes against their own populations to seek or stay in power.

And it is manifest that our truest allies are those governments, groups and individuals which respect the sanctity of the human person, and the fundamental human rights that enable individuals to live together freely and in harmony in democracies governed by the rule of law.

When faced with atrocities, there are no longer–if there ever were– any compelling reasons for looking the other way.

The Trenchant Observer

For recent articles on related subjects, see the list of posts in chronological order.