Syria — Obama’s Bosnia?

While most Americans are focused on the economy and jobs as their #1 concern, and confirm that these are the main drivers for the 2012 elections, foreign policy as in crisis, may yet play an impactful role in determining the election’s outcome.

As Americans were preparing for the opening weekend of Summer, with its requisite Memorial Day observances, 108 people, mostly women and children, were massacred in the village of Taldou, near the town of Houla in the Homs province of Syria.  Syria’s 14 month old uprising against its dictator, Bashar al-Assad, has exacted a terrible price as over 13,000 thousand of its populace have been mercilessly killed by Syrian army and its supportive civilian militia, the shabiha.

38-year old Hasna, Syrian woman who lost her family when a shell hit their motorbike (Loveday Morris-The Independent (UK)

The ghastliness and cost of this war is rendered by stories such as the one told by Hasna, who lost her family during their return to Homs after fleeing for their lives earlier.  As she recovers in a hospital in Lebanon, she is one of the many 24,000 refugees who face a bleak future, as there is little rehabilitation or international aid forthcoming.

Rwanda, Bosnia, Syria.  The first, the world stood idly by until it was too late.  The second, only after Clinton was shamed into doing an end run around the hapless, calcified UN, did bombing occur to try and end to the atrocities, and bring the parties to the peace table.   And now Syria, after more than a year of massacres, descends into hellish chaos.  One of the most important, strategic areas of the world for US national security interests, and we squander opportunities  to lead.  Instead, we back the pathetic diplomatic solutions by the UN’s Kofi Annan, while the security council is hamstrung by Chinese and Russian recalcitrance and vetos.

In the aftermath of this latest massacre, Annan pronounces that Syria is at “the tipping point.”  Several European countries expelled Syrian diplomats, the US followed.  France’s new president, Francois Hollande, has already indicated that military action “would not be ruled out.”  Turkey’s foreign ministry states, “it is out of the question to remain silent.”  However, Russia, you remember our partner with the “reset button”, remains adamantly opposed to any intervention in Syria, and calls them their ally.

One can certainly understand that America is war-weary with 10 years and countless lives lost in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Many can counter with questions such as, must we go and now intervene in Syria?  Have we not enough problems in our own country to solve?  When will we learn we cannot save the world?

Making a case for military intervention, as in supporting the rebels and protestors through arms, aid and training may appear to be the right course to pursue.  Assad already receives arms and aid from both Russia and Iran, and Syria is a corridor for arms flowing to Hezbollah.  Intervention could thwart Iranian regional hegemony.  The US already intervened in Libya, and that country’s importance to our national interests was less than Syria’s.  Yet afterwards, Obama left Libya to its own devices.  If we intervened in Syria, what would be the result?  What do we know about the rebel groups we could be arming? Syria is divided along sectarian lines much the same as Iraq.  We could be aiding and abetting another equally destructive civil war, or replacing the current regime with one of an equal or greater threat to our interests.  Also, could our involvement in a coalition force distract us from a potentially nuclear Iran, which is the greater importance to us and our country’s security.

From a moral, humanitarian perspective, it is difficult to read about and view pictures such as the one in this post.  As families are torn apart through killings and bombings, one wonders what the future holds for the children of Syria.  Will they remember that no one came to help them, and the violence of today will be carried out through them tomorrow.

The expulsion of Syrian diplomats by the US and other countries, elicited the comment from Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, “I don’t think that Assad lost an hour of sleep last night because of those people leaving.”  The New York Times article revealed the President’s personal involvement in drone strikes and hit lists.  So we know that he can push a button remotely.  For a humanitarian crisis which continues to spiral out of control, will Syria become this President’s Bosnia.  If not now, when?

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