Aleppo and Syria: Obama’s legacy of ashes

Never, it seems, have the United States and its Secretary of State groveled before the Russians to such an extent in begging for their cooperation in achieving a foreign policy objective.

It is an image that will live on in history.

See Ben Hubbard, ‘Doomsday Today in Aleppo’: Assad and Russian Forces Bombard City, New York Times, September 23, 2016.

Mark Landler< “Obama Puts Syria at Arm’s Length as Carnage Drags On,” New York Times, September 22, 2016.

It has all been said before. Many times.

The United States, with the most powerful military in the world, now sits with its hands folded as Russia and Syria lead what they hope will be the final assault on Aleppo. Obama has checked out, distancing himself from the issue of Syria.

There is something pathetic about Secretary of State John Kerry insisting that the ceasefire and cooperation agreement with the Russians might still be saved, after Putin and Russia committed a monstrous war crime in bombing the U.N. Red Crescent humanitarian aid convoy on Monday, September 19.

Never, it seems, have the United States and its Secretary of State groveled before the Russians to such an extent in begging for their cooperation in achieving a foreign policy objective.

It is an image that will live on in history.


(1) “With Obama having checked out, U.S. foreign policy is on auto pilot—Do nothing,’” The Trenchant Observer, August 23, 2016.

As we have pointed out, President Barack Obama has effectively checked out of his responsibilities to vigilantly promote nd defend the foreign policy interests of the United States.

The country is on “Obama auto pilot” — “Do nothing”.

At the White House, everything is quiet. The boss has checked out.

(2) “Bring on the Clowns! Aleppo and the ashes of Obama’s foreign policy,” The Trenchant Observer, August 3, 2016.

President Barack Obama and the United States have decided to “work through the Russians” on Syria.

The results of that strategy can now be viewed with crystal clarity as a strengthened Bashar al-Assad and Russian military might launch what may be a final assault on rebel strongholds in Aleppo.

One fact, however, towers over all the others: Barack Obama, through his ill-considered “deal” with the Russians has–however unwittingly–acted to strengthen the rule by terror of Bashar al-Assad, one of the great mass murderers of the last 70 years. Al-Assad is Russia’s man, and Obama is working through the Russians.

International law, particularly international humanitarian law (the law of war), the Nuremberg principles, the “responsibility to protect”, all basic norms of fundamental human rights, all decency, and all sense of moral honor have been pushed aside or forgotten by Barack Obama in Syria.

They lie buried under the ashes of his foreign policy.

(3) “Reasoning from conclusions: Blind hope as the basis for U.S. foreign policy in Syria,” The Trenchant Observer, September 22, 2016.

From the assumption that there is no military solution possible in Syria, Kerry and the U.S. conclude that the only path to peace is through a negotiated settlement. Period. Without the use of force or sanctions to shape the playing field, that means a negotiated solution on al-Assad’s and Putin’s terms.

This is the point that Kerry and the U.S. do not get.

Instead, reasoning from conclusions, they propose solutions based on blind hope, such as the suspension of air operations by Russia and Syria. Even if Putin entered into such an agreement in the hope of helping get the U.S. and EU sanctions eased, it would take another act of blind hope to to assume that he–much less al-Assad–would comply with its provisions.

This is not rocket science. Putin just entered into a ceasefire agreement with the U.S., and then broke it almost immediately by committing the war crime of bombing the U.N. Red Crescent humanitarian aid convoy.

Yet the U.S. clings to its blind hope that, negotiating with the war criminal who committed this act, a ceasefire and cooperation agreement with the Russians will bring results in the interests of the U.S. and its allies.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and 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. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , 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, Dr. Rowles 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. Dr. Rowles 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.=LL.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, Dr. Rowles 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 some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.