REPRISE: Syria and the Shame of the World

Originally published August 20, 2011

Bashar Al-Assad is pursuing the Libyan solution to civilian demonstrations–turn your tanks and your weapons on the demonstrators, and kill as many of them as necessary in order to restore “order” and remain in power.

The world, oddly, stands idly by.

It was a really slow burn, for the world even to notice. NATO’s hands were full with Libya, much fuller than they would have been had the United States led the alliance, instead of “driving from the backseat”. As President Obama might have learned had he looked into it, cars driven from the back seat don’t have the best of accident records.

Plus, the political acquiescence of Russia and China in allowing a United Nations Security Council Resolution to be adopted similar to the one which authorized the use of all necessary measures to protect the civilian population of Libya, was out of the question given Russian objections to the scale and duration of NATO military operations in Libya.

Then there was the delicate balance of Israeli-Arab relations, and Western-Iranian relations as a backdrop. Everyone was afraid–afraid to upset the current dynamically unstable “equilibrium” in the Middle East, particularly in Lebanon but also in the delicate interplay of forces among Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and the entrenched position of Hamas in Gaza. Lebanon alone, with the STL indictments of Hezbollah operatives allegedly responsible for the assassination of Rafiq Hariri in 2005, was a powder keg waiting to go off.

So all factors militated toward outside powers–at least in the West–taking a “look the other way” approach to the atrocities Al-Assad was committing against his people.

Except one curious thing happened. The Syrian people did not desist, even in the face the massive use of force against the people by the Syrian regime.

Now, inaction is beginning to look riskier than at least looking at what is taking place inside Syria.

Russia apparently is blocking the adoption of any U.N. Security Council resolution with enough teeth in it to possibly influence the actions of the murderous regime in Damascus.

Why are the Russians so comfortable with barbarism? That is the driving question that must be asked.

Is it the memory of their own tanks rolling into Prague, 43 years ago on this date, on August 20, 1968, to put down an even milder form of civil disobedience? Is it the authoritarian state that Russia has once again become, despite the heroic efforts of Boris Yeltsin to break the grip of communism and the state-controlled economy? His administrative skills and execution of policies weren’t that great, perhaps, but he was a real democrat, and he launched an incredible, peaceful, democratic social revolution which is still ongoing. At least we can say that.

So, is it the new authoritarian state in Russia that blocks the world from acting to protect the civilian population of Syria?

Coudn’t the Security Council at least, acting under Chaptain VII of the U.N. Charter, grant the International Criminal Court the authority to investigate and punish the war crimes and crimes against humanity that Bashar Al-Assad and his regime have committed and are committing, every day, right before our eyes?

How long can the populations of the West passively regard such brutality without themselves in a sense becoming a part of that same brutality through their own acts of omission?

What will it take for Russia–and the world–to act?

The Trenchant Observer

See also earlier articles by The Trenchant Observer:

Repression in Syria, and the spread of universal ideals throughout the world, May 11, 2011

Update: Torture, The STL in Lebanon, and Obama’s “Way Forward” in Afghanistan, July 1, 2011

Ratko Mladic to join Radovan Karadic in The Hague; Moammar Qaddafi and Bashar al-Assad await similar fates, May 28, 2011

The Struggle for Democracy in Bolivia, Spain, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Lebanon, Ivory Coast, and Iran, March 3, 2011