Syria: The problem of dirty hands?

“Saints can be pure, statesmen must be responsible.” ~ Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

Pillar’s piece on the Syrian tragedy is worth pondering:

We owe President Obama a debt of gratitude for bearing the burden of formulating and implementing policies that do reflect adequate attention to costs and risks to the United States and to what realistically would make things no worse for Syria.  The rest of us get to moralize and express anguish over the suffering people of Aleppo; the president has to go beyond moralizing, and in so doing he has to put up with being mentioned in the same paragraphs as Auschwitz.

Looking beyond Mr. Obama, the prevailing treatment of the Aleppo episode threatens to inculcate damaging “lessons” to be applied to future civil wars.  It is interesting that several of the critics of current policy mention Rwanda as such a lesson, because Rwanda was cited (including by the self-described “genocide chick” who is the current U.S. ambassador to the United Nations) as a reason to intervene in Libya sufficiently to topple the incumbent regime there in 2011.  We now have five years of results.  Those results include a still-chaotic situation and continuing civil war in which the human suffering, including deaths well into the thousands, is far more than the genocide-in-the-making that supposedly was going to occur in Benghazi.

By all means sympathize with the people of Aleppo.  We should feel anguish over their suffering.  But don’t confuse anguish with policy analysis.

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