U.N. Security Council Meets: More “blah, blah, blah”, and no action (with video link)—Obama’s debacle in Syria — Update #82 (August 30)

The situation in Syria was unfolding “in front of our eyes”, with the regime deploying fighter jets against the people, in addition to heavy artillery and tanks, he said. “How long are we going to sit and watch while an entire generation is being wiped out by random bombardment and deliberate mass targeting?” he asked. “If we do not act against such a crime against humanity happening in front of our eyes, we become accomplice to the crime,” he warned.

–Ahmet DAVUTOĞLU, Foreign Minister of Turkey, addessing the Security Council on August 30, 2012. Remarks as summarized and quoted in Security Council Press Release SC/10751 (August 30, 2012).

France chaired the Security Council during the month of August. Wanting to do something on Syria, it came up with the excellent idea, in principle, of convoking a meeting of the Security Council attended by the foreign ministers of the Council’s member states. Unfortunately, of the Permanent Members, only France and the United Kingdom sent their foreign ministers.

The failure of Hillary Clinton to attend revealed that while the Obama administration touts its new approach of leading from the rear, it still wants to call the shots.

In the event, among those countries interested in actually doing something to halt the barbaric acts of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, the United States doesn’t seem to lead at all, and generally brings up the rear. Moreover, it thwarts the initiatives of others. This is as Barack Obama wants it to be.

The fact that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had the time to travel to a very large number of countries over the summer, but couldn’t find time to attend the ministerial session of the Security Council in New York was simply shameful, both for the country and also personally for the Secretary of State.

While the slogan in Obama’s headquarters may be “Four More Years!”, in Clinton’s headquarters it seems to be “Four More Months!”.

The Obama administration simply doesn’t understand how to conduct diplomacy successfully. On this occasion, a little deference to the French and a little help to them in saving face would not have cost the United States much, even if there was in fact little point in holding the meeting without the Russian and Chinese foreign ministers. Yet being a good ally involves standing up for your allies, even when they pursue ideas that are somewhat short of brilliant.

By not attending the meeting, Clinton also removed the opprobrium from Russia nd China for not sending their foreign ministers.

Such a public display of pique and disagreement among the closest of allies–France, the United Kingdom and the United States–was, again, simply shameful.

The meeting itself focused on the humanitarian issues that require attention as the conflict continues.

The video of the 6826th meeting of the Security Council, August 30, 2012, is found here.

A Press Release (U.N. Doc. SC/10752) summarizing the proceedings at the 2826th meeting of the Security Council, including summaries of the statements made by U.N. officials and Council representatives who intervened at the meeting, is found here.

The Turkish Foreign Minister, in his statement, made the following essential point:

AHMET DAVUTOĞLU, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Turkey, said he understood that the Council would, yet again, be unable to put forward a unified position to stop the humanitarian tragedy. Today’s meeting would not result in a presidential or press statement, let alone a robust resolution. Not even all foreign ministers had attended, but it was to be hoped that their non-participation was not an indication of their level of interest.

The situation in Syria was unfolding “in front of our eyes”, with the regime deploying fighter jets against the people, in addition to heavy artillery and tanks, he said. “How long are we going to sit and watch while an entire generation is being wiped out by random bombardment and deliberate mass targeting?” he asked. “If we do not act against such a crime against humanity happening in front of our eyes, we become accomplice to the crime,” he warned. “We can’t put the United Nations again in such an uncomfortable situation to apologize for the inaction or negligence about the tragic situation in Syria.”

In the delegates’ statements, there was much talk about the need for a ceasefire and a negotiated settlement. France, Turkey and the United Kingdom had other ideas, including the establishment of safe zones within the territory of Syria, but in their public statements to the Security Council they did not elaborate on these ideas.

Everyone wants a ceasefire and an end to the killing. Few seem to have come to grips with the fact that the use of force will be required, outside the framework of the Security Council.  There can be little doubt that, within the Security Council itself, there is not going to be any agreement to use force (or even to adopt strong economic sanctions) to bring al-Assad’s barbarism to a halt.

This will have to be done outside the framework of the Security Council. What is needed is for one or more countries, preferably but not necessarily acting as a coalition, to just act to set up the safe zones, and an accompanying no-fly zone if that is required as a result of al-Assad’s response. 

Successful diplomacy involves more than traveling and attending meetings and talking.  It involves action that produces results. On extremely rare occasions, that action may employ as an adjunct the limited use of force, to secure limited objectives.

Such action is required. Now.

The Trenchant Observer

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