Richard Cohen has written a scathing indictment of President Obama’s inaction over Syria:
President Obama’s inaction has cost the region plenty. It has permitted a humanitarian calamity to metastasize — 5,000 refugees a day, according to the United Nations. It has allowed the most radical of the insurgents to come to the fore and has flooded nearby countries with refugees, upsetting carefully calibrated ethnic balances. Jordan, a nation of 6.5 million people, has more than 250,000 Syrian refugees; Lebanon has nearly as many. The size of the influx could overwhelm these small and contrived nations.
Obama, of course, has been asked about his policy. The answer he provided the New Republic recently is troubling: “How do I weigh tens of thousands who’ve been killed in Syria versus the tens of thousands who are currently being killed in the Congo?” The statement is disingenuous, suggesting that the inability to do everything excuses the unwillingness to do anything. It also prompts the question of why he militarily intervened in Libya, the Congo civil war notwithstanding.
Clearly, the president is disappointing liberal interventionsts. Contrariwise, I think the president’s policy with respect to Syria has been about right. I believe it’s far more difficult to distinguish the good guys (if any) in Syria from the bad guys than Mr. Cohen surmises. Do we really want to be arming people who will turn around and use those weapons against us? Syria is not Libya. I’m not even sure we have the ability to produce the sort of “no-fly zone” in Syria that we did in Libya. I seem to recall that the “no-fly zone” we enforced in Iraq didn’t prevent Saddam Hussein from using helicopters against his own people.
I do believe that the president’s decisions with respect to Syria which, as has been widely reported, are completely his own reveal the complete vacuity of the “responsibility to protect”. It’s another theory cast on the dustbin of history.