Thursday, July 28, 2011

On "the right side of history" regarding Syria? At the UN, the Obama administration has not issued a peep

In dealing with the Middle East’s political eruptions, the United States, credibly or not, has made standing on the right side of history its operative watchword
notes John Vinocur in the International Herald Tribune.
Backing a French-British resolution condemning the Syrian regime for its brutal repression of opposition demonstrators, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan E. Rice, reached for the moral prop: “We will be on the right side of history if and when this comes to a vote. If others are unable to, or are unwilling to, then that will be their responsibility to bear.”

Now, with deaths in Syria reported to have risen to 1,400 over four months of clashes, there has been no U.N. condemnation, and no U.S. calling-out by name those countries blocking the measure and supplying Syria with its arms and financial wherewithal.

With Syria’s dictatorship killing daily with impunity, Ms. Rice’s line, five weeks later, has less the look of a U.S. government acting on history’s right side than one comfortable with indignation minus consequences.

As it turns out, the West is doing very little to transform the outrage of Syrian citizens into effective penalties against the regime of Bashar al-Assad and its suppliers, or into active outside support for a best-case scenario — ending Damascus’s symbiotic relationship with Iran, stopping Syria’s promotion of terrorism and isolating Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The language of moral commitment remains: President Barack Obama has said the United States is “using all the diplomatic, economic and strategic tools at our disposal” to support democratic transition and “block the path of murder.” But evidence of that action — or anything resembling results — isn’t shining through.

…for the Americans, moral impeccability, with the Security Council action floundering, relates in the short term to whether the United States considers the Russians and the Chinese too big to assail concerning Syria.

…how do you not exert pressure on Moscow now when tanks and helicopters — Pieter D. Wezeman of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates Russia to be the essential source of the Syrian military’s heavy equipment — mass near a Syrian town where soldiers have defected?

Two despairing answers:

One, according to a European diplomat, is that the European Union, without specific U.N. cover, could never achieve the consensus necessary to call out Moscow or penalize it for providing the hardware involved in Syria’s ongoing massacres.

The other is that for the Obama administration, the task of confronting Syria’s supply chain with sanctions would savage the basic Russia-is-manageable premise of the president’s so-called reset with Moscow.