Monday, August 26, 2013

What U.S. response to Syrian WMD used on women and children?

“When innocent life is being taken on such a scale and the United States has the power to stop the killing at reasonable risk, it has a duty to act.”

--Samantha Power, U.S ambassador to the United Nations, in “A Problem From Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide (2002)

Thank goodness the President will respond (in some, as yet undefined, manner) to Syria’s gassing of its own women and children. The proper action, foreshadowed by secretary of state John Kerry this afternoon, cuts against bad advice by conservative Charles Krauthammer and others that the U.S. continue to stay out of the Syrian conflict--even after the horrors of gas attacks on, and massive deaths among, Syrian civilians.

Edward Luttwak, a Middle East defense specialist at the conservative Center for International Studies, offered the rationale for this bad “no intervention” advice:
the Obama administration should resist the temptation to intervene . . . in Syria’s civil war. A victory by either side would be equally undesirable for the United States. At this point, a prolonged stalemate is the only outcome that would not be damaging to American interests.
While Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s weapons-of-mass-destruction (WMD) atrocity against his own people is chilling, it is also deeply chilling that American national security experts would prefer to have two enemies of Israel continue killing each other indefinitely, rather than have the U.S. weigh in on the side of gas attacks victims.

I have been reminded, again, why I don’t like Realpolitick.

Thus far, the neoconservatives best helper has been the American public’s deep aversion to another war anywhere, anytime--including in Syria. A Reuters/Ipsos poll, just taken, found that only 25% of Americans would support U.S. intervention to counter Syrian president Assad's use of chemical weapons, with 46% opposed, a decline from an August 13 Reuters/Ipsos poll showing 30% supporting intervention if chemical weapons were used, with 42% opposed.

In her book, Power had an answer for those who quote polls to block U.S. intervention in genocidal situations:
The inertia of the governed cannot be disentangled from the indifference of the government. American leaders have both a circular and a deliberate relationship to public opinion. . . constituencies are rarely if ever aroused by foreign crises, even genocidal ones, in the absence of political leadership, and yet at the same time U.S. officials continually cite the absence of public support as grounds for inaction.
Here’s hoping Power and Kerry are able to help Obama follow through (at last) with a tough U.S. response to Assad’s atrocity against his own.

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