REPRISE: Syria: Russia’s military assault on Western civilization

First published on September 26, 2016



Anne Barnard and Somni Sengupta, “Syria and Russia Appear Ready to Scorch Aleppo,” New York Times, September 25, 2016.

The world has become far removed from the experience of World War II and the battle to uphold Western civilization and its values during a six-year war in Europe and a longer one in Asia at the hands of German and Japanese aggression.

As political attention in the United States is directed to “the great smackdown” between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump at 6 p.m. EDT tonight, September 26, 2016, Russia continues its all-out war against Western civilization and its core values in Aleppo in Syria and other parts of that country.

Massive bombing of civilian populations, the strategy of systematically committing war crimes against hospitals, emergency personnel, humanitarian aid convoys and infrastructure, and water facilities and other civilian infrastructure, constitute the methods Russia is using not only to incur complicity in al-Assad’s’ war crimes and crimes against humanity, but also to engage directly in the commission of such crimes itself.

In doing so, Russia is hardly to be distinguished from Nazi Germany.

This state of affairs has been a long time in coming. The road to Aleppo leads through Simferapol in the Crimea and Donetsk and Luhansk in the eastern Ukraine, through the legions of pacifists and apologists and appeasers of Putin and Russia in European and other capitals, and through the experience of aggression and war crimes over the last five years with no effective Western response.

Now the West faces a critical battle to defend the core values of its civilization.

Putin threatens to cut off all negotiations over Syria if Western countries persist in calling him out for the commission of war crimes.

That is the game he has played with the West, threatening more aggression, more war crimes if Western leaders speak the truth. For years they were cowed, carefully avoiding references to the Russian invasion of the eastern Ukraine or its continued occupation of that area.

For years they have avoided calling out Russia for its complicity in the war crimes committed by Bashar al-Assad in Syria, or those Russia has itself committed more recently.

Until Sunday. On September 25, 2016 the U.S., the U.K., and France accused Russia and Putin directly, openly, of the war crimes they have been committing.

The burning question now is what actions will proceed from those words.

When seeking a basis for comparisons to the Russian and Syrian war crimes underway currently in Syria, observers make reference to Guernica in the Spanish civil war, or Sarajevo and Srebrenice in the Balkan conflicts of the 1990’s. Yet the atrocities underway in Syria dwarf those at Srebrenice, and Guernica occurred before the Nuremberg trials after World War II.

Who will rise to the occasion and defend Western civilization against the Russian onslaught in Syria against its deepest, most fundamental values?

Which leaders will speak out for a ban on meetings with Putin or other top Russian officials, or any meetings in Russia, so long as Russia continues with al -Assad its systematic campaign of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria?

Which political leaders in the West will stand up and demand stronger sectorial sanctions be imposed on Russia until it ceases its commission of war crimes in Syria?

Tonight, at the big “smack-down” between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, will either candidate answer the question of what he or she would do in response to Russia’s deliberate targeting of a U.N. Red Crescent humanitarian aid convoy in northern Syria on September 19?

If they answer, will the moderator push them past their vague rehearsed answers, in sustained questioning, to give Americans real insight into how each would approach foreign policy?

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.