Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Syria's crisis: we have lost ...

(26/9) A powerful piece from Leon Wieseltier ... Really sums it up. And not just US, UK too.
Comrades, we have lost. The only achievement of the Obama administration in the Syrian crisis so far has been to eliminate the humanitarian motive from American foreign policy. [..] Assad’s gassing of children has been a dazzling career move. His most recent, and most brazen, use of chemical weapons has not imperiled him. Quite the contrary. The dead of Ghouta have saved him. The Kerry-Lavrov deal represents an American agreement to deny Assad’s accountability for the atrocity that America’s spokesmen have otherwise been eloquently denouncing. Responsibility, yes; accountability, no. We will hold Assad to account for his arsenal, but not for what he has done with it. Actually, we will hold him to account only for a portion of his arsenal. We have no objection to the weapons that have contributed to the killing of 120,000 people, or with what may still be done with them.
The Kerry-Lavrov deal is premised on a distinction, an analytical gimmick, that is dear to the president, whose brain is where his heart should be. It is that the question of chemical weapons may be dissociated from the question of mass slaughter. The former demands action, the latter (which the president tidily defines as “somebody else’s civil war”) does not. But this is sophistry. The revulsion against chemical weapons is founded in the revulsion against mass slaughter. The crime—the systematic murder of innocents—is the same. In Syria, sarin and the AK-47 [..] have been different means to one end. It makes no sense to lose sleep over the one and sleep well through the other. The crisis in Syria is not chiefly a crisis of arms control. Obama also argues for his specious distinction on legal grounds, citing the various conventions against chemical weapons; but there also exist conventions against crimes against humanity. Why comply with the former and not comply with the latter?
We are also becoming heartless. In the name of “nation-building at home,” we are learning to be unmoved by evil. I will give an example. On Anderson Cooper’s show last week, there appeared a man named Zaidoun Al Zoabi, an academic in Damascus and a prominent anti-Assad activist, who was kidnapped by the Syrian secret police and held in one of Assad’s most notorious prisons. He was pleading for American action to stop Assad’s savagery. “Is the diplomatic path now only about chemical weapons?” Al Zoabi asked, with a look on his face composed in equal measure of dignity and desperation. “What about [Assad’s] massacring us for the past two years?” At which point Andrew Sullivan, who was a panelist on the show, folded his arms, turned away, and sneered: “Chemical weapons is all you’re going to get right now!” Go back to your disgusting little country and die. The blogger giveth and the blogger taketh away. [..] We grow inured to the victims, the way the rich grow inured to the poor. The Syrians, the Libyans, the Egyptians, the Iranians, the politically aspiring peoples of the tyrannized world—they are the global 47 percent, taking, taking, taking. Or they would be, if we were giving. Atrocity fatigue is our fatigue at their atrocity:
On the other hand, when he says, "He must have seen the Arendt movie," I don't quite see the parallel.

See also How Bashar al-Assad Destroyed My Country, 25/9, by Omar Ghabra (@omarghabra), a Syrian-American writer
it is worth looking back to those more innocent days. It seems the world has forgotten that before it was sectarian, it was about equality for all. Before there was Jabhat al-Nusra, there were defectors who refused to fire on innocent civilians
It was Assad who chose to torture, murder and carpet-bomb his way to the sectarian abyss in which Syria now finds itself. It was Assad who knowingly stoked historical tensions to cement the perception that dictatorship was the only way to defend Syria from medieval radicals who will drive out the country’s vulnerable minorities.
Inside Syria, 22/9  The divisions of diplomacy presenter Jane Dutton, guests: Anna Therese Day, an independent journalist, writer and producer; Elias Muhanna, an associate professor of comparative literature and Middle East studies at Brown University; and Saleh Mubarak, a member of the Syrian National Council and a professor at Qatar University.
Rough notes: Kristen Saloomey report: Francois Hollande hopes that even Iran could help broker a deal; Marie Harf, US State Dept. Mubarak (studio): Iranian president moderate, but does not have final say; need to be neutral. Is SNC in position to reject? SNC part of coalition; other side buying time, meantime people getting killed
Muhanna (Providence): I think that you don't go the dialogue table with the sponsors that you want ... Chances low, but real breakthrough.
Day (Washington): opportunity for diplomatic solution. Muhanna: regime master of tactics, diplomatic game, de facto partition, hope, empower more moderate forces. Mubarak: opposition failing to unite? Elected temporary PM, foreign affairs will be handled by leadership; more funding now, maybe as reconciliation after military strikes were ruled out (12:30). 

Published 25 Nov 2013


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