After World War II and the horrors of the Holocaust were uncovered Jews were joined by the world community in exclaiming: “Never again.”
Never again should any people face wholesale massacre or genocide. But the world has seen many examples of what should “never happen again” since the end of World War II. We’ve witnessed violence by governments against their own people again and again, most recently in Iraq and Libya.
Currently it is the report of Syrian forces killing civilians in cities most Americans have never heard of like Hamah and Homs. This week’s killing of more than 100 Syrian citizens has finally ignited something more than a “Tsk tsk” from the global community. Some nations are asking Syrian ambassadors to their country to leave. Even Russia, one of Syria’s most consistent supporters, showed a response that stronger than it usually shows when it comes to Syria, even though it reamains one of that country’s main arms suppliers.
One country’s dictatorial nemesis is another country’s marketplace. Unfortunately, that will always be the case. But, why did the U.S. spend ten years, billions and billions of dollars and thousands of American lives in Afghanistan, but we don’t do much to help civilians in Syria to defend themselves and aid them in overthrowing President Bashar al-Assad? We would not prefer not to think it is because Syria has no major reserves of natural resources while Afghanistan is said to be sitting atop about $1 trillion in minerals.
We have learned by now that America can not just invade a country (remember Iraq in 2003?). We do not advocate turning Syria’s internal issues into a U.S. military cause. But if “Never Again” is to be a global aim, shouldn’t the United States do what it can overtly and covertly to help Syrians defend themselves?
The world is a much more complicated place than most Americans realize. We can’t put U.S. boots on the ground in Syria but we can cetainly demand that our allies establish and maintain tough sanctions that will strangle the government in a way that won’t harm the people.
What options does that leave for this country? American policy should move into a triangular mode, much like what Richard Nixon did in the early 1970s regarding the Soviet Union and China. We have to be not afraid to speak truth to power to those nations that support countries like Syria. We can’t overthrow al-Assad, but we can certainly work to make his life as president miserable. The U.S. needs to do what it can to bring about a change in Syria that prevents the massacre of any more men, women and children.