Sunday, June 3, 2012

Syrian Massacre Shows Limits of American Power; Romney Criticism Shows Hypocrisy of Political Process

Wondering if There is Any Issue Out of Bounds of Presidential Politics

The situation in Syria is truly horrific, the government having decided to wage war and engage in murdering its own citizens.  The recent massacre of civilians including a large number of women and children highlights just how awful the regime is in that country. Yes something should be done about this, but what?

The U. S. and the western countries have learned that no matter how much they may dislike the situation and no matter how much what Syria is doing in morally and militarily indefensible, there are limits on what intervention can do.   The U. S. intervention in Iraq is still fresh in everyone’s minds; a lasting example of how a well intentioned effort resulted in an outcome far different from what was wanted.  Was the horror inflicted upon the Iraqi people by the Iraq war and occupation worse than the horror inflicted upon those people by Saddam?  Maybe, maybe not.

Of course Mitt Romney never misses an opportunity make a political issue out of anything.  And as usual in politics and particular with Republicans, Mr. Romney goes far beyond an analytical critique and blames Mr. Obama for allowing tremendous amounts of murder.

Mr. Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, condemned Mr. Obama on Tuesday for a “policy of paralysis” toward Syria that he said had allowed President Bashar al-Assad to “slaughter 10,000 individuals.”

Exactly what Mr. Obama could have done to prevent the slaughter is not clear, even to Mr. Romney.

But Mr. Romney’s own prescriptions for ending the mounting death toll in Syria have been less definitive than his denunciations of the president.

He called for the United States to “work with partners to organize and arm Syrian opposition groups so they can defend themselves” — a policy that goes somewhat further than Mr. Obama’s but falls short of the airstrikes advocated by Republicans like Senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Human Rights Groups are concerned about unintended consequences of military intervention.

Even human rights groups are not demanding intervention.

“No human rights organization wants to criticize the administration for failing to do something we haven’t yet asked them to do,” said Tom Malinowski, the head of the Washington office of Human Rights Watch. “We see more complexity and risk in Syria because of the sectarian dimension and the weakness of the opposition.”

The war chorus of John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman wants to involve the U. S. militarily in Syria, but then they want to involve the U. S. militarily in every conflict.  One wonders if they were in charge of U. S. foreign policy if the U. S. would not be involved in a war in every country.  Sen. Graham is genuinely moved by the murder of women and children in Syria,

“Maybe the kids will make the difference,” Mr. Graham said in an interview, referring to the killings on Friday in the Houla area of central Syria. “We live in a visual world. When you see the slaughter of 30 children, it reminds us of who we are.”

 and everyone shares his revulsion but his solutions always seem to be wanting to make things worse.  Ineffectual use of American war power makes the country less credible and weaker in the future, not stronger.  And how many children have been killed in Afghanistan by error from American attacks?

America is strong militarily, the strongest military power in the world.  But that power is not unlimited or omnipotent.  If America could enter the conflict in Syria and with very little cost to American and Syrian lives  end that conflict everyone is fully in favor of intervention.  But that is almost certainly not the situation.

Mr. Romney’s position is in part that he wants to arm the rebel forces that are arrayed against the government.  That was U. S. policy in Afghanistan when the Soviets invaded that country.  The U. S. armed and supported the Taliban.  How did that work out?

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