Commentary Magazine


Where is Atrocity Prevention on Syria?

Lee Smith has already noted at the Weekly Standard’s site the irony of the Obama administration creating the Atrocities Prevention Board at the very moment the administration is choosing to do nothing substantive to stop the atrocities being perpetrated in Syria.

There is another layer of irony, as noted by Michael Dobbs at Foreign Policy, namely that the driving force behind the Atrocities Prevention Board, NSC staffer Samantha Power, the author of an important history of American responses to genocide, had noted the propensity of U.S. officials to oppose “genocide in the abstract while simultaneously opposing American involvement in the moment.” It is hard to better that as a description of the U.S. response, or lack thereof, to the massacres occurring in Syria.

The U.S. has responded with empty calls for Bashar al-Assad’s resignation and tough sanctions which have done much damage to the Syrian economy but have not stopped the killing or shaken the regime, which continues to be supported by Iran, Russia, and other unsavory actors. The latest attempt to save the Syrian people has come courtesy of the UN, which is introducing monitors to Syria. Not surprisingly, the Syrian regime has not been cowed by the presence of these unarmed observers; Syrian security forces have cracked down hard in cities such as Homs where the people have dared to protest the regime during the fleeting visits of the UN observers.

This is not a serious policy; it is in fact the absence of a policy. As Elie Wiesel said at the Holocaust Museum, in introducing President Obama to give a speech on how he would prevent atrocities, “How is it that Assad is still in power?…Have we not learned? We must know that evil has power. It is almost too late.” (Wiesel also demanded to know how it is that Ahamedinejad remains in power in Iran and how it is that Iran is on the cusp of acquiring nuclear weapons.)

That situation does not appear likely to change anytime soon. Barring greater action led by the U.S., Assad will remain in power. And I fear that the U.S. may not do anything serious until after the November presidential election. Unfortunately, the way things are going, the killing will still be in full swing then.


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