December 18, 2016
There is some truth to this article - Those who know me know that I like the statement,
Aleppo is a monument to the failed "there are no military solutions" platitude, the dead owe their fate to our naivety [sic] we have in diplomacy.(If he had simply written "'war is not the answer' platitude," the statement would have been perfect.)
President Obama did nothing militarily. Even my favorite liberal interlocutor has acknowledged Syria to be Obama's worst disaster. Although I supported Donald Trump, I am not sure he would have done anything either - another commitment in the middle east is the last thing he wants, believe me.
But what could President Obama have done? He has been criticized for being the "what happens then" president, prefacing every major foreign policy decision with a seemingly endless series of such questions, and whether this constitutes circumspection or indecisiveness depends on one's political persuasion. The author of the article lists several "could haves" but hindsight is always 20/20. We do not know whether any of these things would have really worked or would have failed.
The Aleppo disaster would have been a fascinating example to have used in my paper. As I argued and as this essay seems to reinforce, the free world does have an obligation to confront the truly evil on earth. But the media — to include social and other non-traditional media — makes it very hard to identify who are the real evildoers. Some people say Assad is the devil. Others say Assad an angel. I happen to think he's a butcher, but he's the lesser of other evils. We've sided with butchers before (Stalin) to defeat different butchers (Hitler). But then I could be completely off the mark. And then you have these so-called "rebels." Who are they? Al-Qaida? The Arab version of the boy scouts? Neighbors next door? Who the heck knows? And then what about the Russians? The Turks? The whole situation is mind-bogglingly complex.
I have yet to find anyone anywhere who can coherently and accurately sit down with me and explain what is going on in Aleppo and broader Syria, and whom we should be fighting for. Until we understand who and what we are fighting for, what constitutes victory, the likelihood of success, and whether the cause is really justified from the moral and geo-political perspective, it would be wrong to go to war.
Having said that however, are we morally justified to stick our collective heads in the sand of complexity, and to say to the dead, "we did nothing because the situation was simply too complex for the free world to deal with?" Somehow that doesn't sit right with me either.
I suppose that God and history will have to judge whether sitting out Aleppo was better than military intervention, even at the risk of outright failure or — and this seems worse to many — ruffling Russia's feathers.