by Victor Davis Hanson // NRO’s The Corner
Once again we are trying to rally the American people about the dangers of purported WMD use; this time around, the Syrians may be doing to their own what Saddam Hussein most certainly did to the Kurds. John Kerry gave an impassioned speech that the civilized world cannot let this atrocity stand, on the theory that the circumstances that led to 99 percent of the Syrians deaths so far did not warrant action, but that the last one percent have died in a fashion that is intolerable. I don’t know quite what the Kerry-Obama lexicon of “undeniable,” “inexcusable,” or “unacceptable” means anymore, whether in a context of toxic gas or thousands of centrifuges.
But unfortunately, the civilized world, for all its moral platitudes, never claimed that the use of WMD would not stand – only the U.S. established that redline when Barack Obama repeatedly warned Bashar Assad that he should not only step down but that any use of WMD was a game changer. So the U.N. and the EU will look to Obama to bell the cat that he warned was a generic threat to all mice.
Don’t expect any actions from the United Nations even when lobbied by a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, given that Russia would veto any multilateral action on the premise that not long ago it was snookered when the Libyan no-fly-zones and humanitarian aid quickly escalated into U.N.-nonapproved bombing and ground support. Anyway, Russia and China hope the U.S. either becomes bogged down after intervening or keeps blustering to intervene and then is rendered weak-looking when it does not.
I think one leading-from-behind escapade was enough for the traumatized Europeans. Don’t expect another Arab League resolution that the Obama administration values more than an authorization from the U.S. Congress.
Only a tiny minority of Americans wishes to intervene – given what they saw at Benghazi, the third cycle of revolution in Egypt, and the blood and treasure lost in Iraq. The president has certainly not spent the last 6 months building public opinion and political coalitions for any sort of action. He seems as bored by Syria as he was on the night of the bin Laden raid when he stepped out to play cards with Reggie Love or during the Benghazi debacle when he retired early given the next day’s Las Vegas urgencies. Why doesn’t it all just go away?
The old idea of a U.S. backed, new moderate Muslim axis of Erdogan, Morsi, and new ‘moderates’ in Iran deflating Islamic radicalism is a Carter caricature. We are not facing an election this year, so the fierce urgency of now is not so fierce or urgent. John Kerry is talking in a bellicose fashion that a candidate Barack Obama, circa 2007, would caution us about.
No doubt in the next two weeks we are looking at launching a few cruise missiles to save face or an imposition of a no-fly-zone to hamper Assad. A nocturnal strike aimed at air assets and infrastructure and ceasing by dawn is also a likely scenario — out of possible scenarios judged not by efficacy of the actions taken so much as by the least number of nations offended and the quickest and safest way to end them.
Russian ships might mass; the Iranians might threaten to do this and that; Hezbollah or Syria might lob some missiles at Israel (in hopes that the Arab world would hope that they had some WMD in them), but the U.S. could likely act in a small, symbolic way without igniting a regional war.
Neither missiles nor bombs necessarily would guarantee that Assad would not use such weapons again. Only U.S. ground troops could do that – and that is politically out of the question, given that it would end up, strategically speaking, with using Americans to fight a secular genocidal dictator mostly to the benefit of radical Islamists with al-Qaeda sympathies.
And lastly there is the tragic irony. We are now in a surreal landscape in which the Left urges action on suspicion of WMD use, citing the humanitarian issues involved, the larger concerns of the civilized world, and U.S. strategic interests. U.N. weapon inspectors are not allowed in. There is good evidence that Assad is lying about his use of WMD or at least trying to mislead in some fashion not altogether discernible. Where are Joe Wilson, Hans Blix, and Mohamed ElBaradei when we need them?
Where the Syrian WMD came from or where they are stored is still a mystery, given that we were assured long ago by opponents of the Iraq War that Saddam did not pose a threat and thus his WMD stockpiles, if they ever existed, did not go to Syria on the eve of that war.
In a larger sense, who now exercises influence in the Middle East? No one really – although Iran, its Shiite terrorist appendages, Hezbollah, Bashar Assad, China, and Russia all certainly have more clout than the U.S., the U.N., and Europe combined.