A ‘Modest Proposal’ for a ‘Swift’ Solution to Syria
“Brutality of Syrian Rebels Posing Dilemma in West” -- that story in The New York Times on September 5 reported that “many rebels have adopted some of the same brutal and ruthless tactics as the regime they are trying to overthrow.” The dilemma: How can we punish Assad for his violations of international law, when his opponents are also in violation -- in this case, killing prisoners?
The Times called this a “foreign policy puzzle.” But there’s a solution to this puzzle. Some have suggested the solution is: Don’t bomb Assad. Those people are spineless and unprincipled. The obvious solution is simple: Bomb both sides.
The principles enunciated by President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry are clear and uplifting: It’s our job to punish evildoers. It’s our job to send a message, so that others will not follow the example of evildoing. Those who oppose sending a message will be responsible for whatever evil follows.
Kerry made it clear that those who refuse to support American intervention against Assad will be responsible the next time the Syrian regime “gasses its citizens” -- and they will also be responsible “when North Korea or Iran attempts to use nuclear weapons.” But of course the same argument applies to the other side: Those against bombing the opposition will also be personally responsible if Iran attacks Israel with nuclear weapons.
The evidence in the New York Times is irrefutable: video tape of horrifying executions, smuggled out of Syria. As Secretary Kerry said (speaking of Assad’s crimes), “We know these things beyond the reasonable doubt that is the standard by which we send people to jail for the rest of their lives.” Everybody agrees it is a violation of international law to execute prisoners. As Secretary Kerry said, “Even countries with whom we agree on little” agree on that.
Those against an attack on the Syrian opposition -- again, Secretary Kerry’s argument is powerful -- “could be compared to those who would vote against action in the case of the St. Louis, a ship carrying Jewish refugees from Germany that was turned away from Cuba, the United States and Canada in 1939 -- and had to return to Europe, where many of its passengers eventually died in Nazi camps.” That’s Nazi camps, people!
To quote Secretary Kerry once more: “The world wonders whether the United States of America will consent, through silence, to standing aside while this kind of brutality is allowed to happen without consequence.”
As the president has said, “Assad must go.” Now we need to add, “And the opposition must go.” Who then should govern Syria? Again, the answer is simple: the United States of America. Jon Wiener teaches American history at the University of California-Irvine and is a contributing editor at The Nation. His latest book is How We Forgot the Cold War: A Historical Journey Across America (University of California Press). Copyright © 2013 The Nation – distributed by Agence Global