Haunted by Syria?
President Obama is unmoved by the atrocities on his watch
Jan 13, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 17 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
At the end of 2013, that is the picture. The chemical weapons deal gave Assad license to continue killing by any means other than chemical weapons, and he is using it. A vicious bombardment of Aleppo began December 15 and continued day after day. Helicopters drop “barrel bombs” filled with explosives, nails, and other shrapnel designed to kill indiscriminately. “The medics say they are removing people in parts; they aren’t sure how many there are,” came the report from the Aleppo Media Center. “There was a big massacre today. We were treating shrapnel wounds, deep abdominal and brain injuries. I just lost count of the amputations,” a doctor told CNN two days before Christmas. Three days before New Year’s, a helicopter dropped a barrel bomb on a vegetable market, killing two dozen more people. The American strike that President Obama decided against at the last minute could have destroyed some of Assad’s helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, damaged their bases, degraded their ability to conduct such attacks, and given Assad a firm and credible warning to stop using airpower against civilian targets.
The Obama administration has a variety of excuses for its inaction. What can we do, after all? Would a jihadist victory be better than Assad? Small but growing elements of the foreign policy establishment are now echoing the line that we can’t after all allow al Qaeda to take over, so perhaps Assad is a necessary evil. But there were obvious things to do, and the administration should not now be allowed to escape condemnation for its feckless refusal to make choices. If today’s choices are worse than yesterday’s, or those available in 2012 and most of 2013, that is because Obama decided to do nothing. When I testified to the House Armed Services Committee in July 2013, I urged a onetime strike at Assad’s air assets and noted that Secretary Kerry was in favor of the same move: Cripple Assad’s small air force and you tilt the battlefield militarily, politically, and psychologically. Remember Kerry’s speech of August 30?
Great speech. Wrong president.
Today the war crimes continue, but poor Assad is restricted to using conventional weapons to murder Syrians. In the Balkan wars of the 1990s, it is estimated that a total of 130,000 died. The war in Syria long ago passed that point, and the numbers continue to rise.
The American reaction is pathetic. Here is what the White House spokesman said in response to the murders and “barrel bombs” in Aleppo at year’s end:
Recent Blog Posts