REPRISE: Syria—As Christmas approaches, the assault on civilization continues

First published on December 22, 2013

The bloody fighting in Syria continues, with a renewed assault on Aleppo by the al-Assad regime. President Obama is off to Hawaii for a 17-day vacation over the Christmas holidays. European leaders will soon be traveling to their homes to celebrate Christmas and the holiday season.

Yet in Syria, and Aleppo, the message of Christmas is distant, drowned out by the roar of war machines.

The world has turned its back on and its attention away from Syria. When the Free Syrian Army headquarters of General Salim Idriss was overrun by jihadist fighters last week, the U.S. announced that it was halting weapons deliveries to the Western-backed insurgents. Some of their weapons had fallen into jihadist hands. Response: “Fold ’em up (as in a game of cards). We’re out of here.”

For Obama and other leaders, this was just the denouement needed to absolve oneself of moral or any other kind of responsibility for what is happening to civilians in Syria, and the insurgents to whom we pledged our support.

Last week, Washington and Britain announced the suspension of non-lethal aid into northern Syria after the Islamic Front, a new alliance of several rebel factions, seized a border crossing and weapons warehouses from the Western-backed Free Syrian Army.
–“Salim Idris has failed as leader of Syrian rebels, coalition says Syria’s opposition coalition seeks support from international backers for a new armed force after losing faith with Gen Salim Idris, the commander of the rebel Supreme Military Council,”

Damien McElroy “Salim Idris has failed to make an institution,” The Telegraph, December 16, 2013 (5:09 p.m. GMT)

See also

EFE/El Cairo, “Un bombardeo contra Alepo causa decenas de muertos; El régimen de Bachar el Asad intensifica su ofensiva contra la ciudad rebelde con ataques aéreos; El régimen sirio se ensaña con Alepo,” 22 diciembre 2013 (19:39 CET).

Markus Bickel (Cairo), Syrien-Konflikt; Der Diktator als Staatsmann; Rund einen Monat vor Beginn der Syrien-Konferenz nahe Genf geht Machthaber Baschar al Assad in die Offensive. Es sieht sogar so aus, als könnte er sich als Bollwerk im Kampf gegen Al Qaida inszenieren, Frankfurter Allgemeine, 21 Dezember 2013.

Obama’s callous indifference to the war crimes being committed in Syria every day, and the support or acquiescence of other Western and Arab leaders, has set into motion forces that will reap the whirlwind.

Europe and the United States will be fighting the terrorism spawned in Syria, as its “blowback” returns to their shores, for the next generation.

Everything is connected. And that is the most important point about foreign policy that Obama doesn’t get. Moreover, with some five years of experience, it appears fairly clear that he will never get it.

Leadership must come from somewhere else. On foreign policy, Obama is already practically a lame duck in the eyes of many foreign leaders. To be sure, they must still reckon with the power of the state he leads.

Returning to Aleppo, however unpleasant it may be for us personally, as individuals, we must keep Syria and what is going on there ever in our minds.

What is going on there, and what is not not going on here or in the West, will affect hundreds of millions of people in the world, if not billions. This is true precisely because things are connected.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

The Observer
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by The Observer, an international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. He is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (IACHR), where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, The Observer has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. The Observer speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, The Observer has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on the best articles that have appeared in the blog.