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October 10, 2016 6:55 am

Our Moral Bankruptcy on Syria Betrays Every American Value

avatar by Alon Ben-Meir

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A snapshot of the devastation in Aleppo, Syria. Photo: Wiki Commons.

A snapshot of the devastation in Aleppo, Syria. Photo: Wiki Commons.

Much has been written about the unfolding tragedy in Syria, but how many of these unimaginable atrocities have truly reached the consciousness of the American public? President Obama still refuses to stop the slaughter, which means that thousands more innocent men, women and children are butchered each week, with no end in sight.

I urge every reader of this column to spare a moment and imagine the plight of the Syrian people, especially the children. This is what you will see: more than 50,000 children under the age of 15 have been killed — if they stood shoulder to shoulder, they would form a line 80 miles long. Two and a half million children are languishing in refugee camps, including 306,000 that have been born since the civil war began in 2011. Eight million children inside and outside of the country are in desperate in need of food and medical care. More than 15,000 children have crossed Syria’s borders by themselves; many were left to die, not ever knowing what happened to them and why. One in three children have endured horrific violence against them and their families, and more than 2.5 million children have no access to basic education.

Take another moment and imagine children being pulled from the rubble — the dead, the severely wounded, the unconscious, and the ones who are still awake but do not know what happened to them and why.

The death toll of children and adults alike has been reduced to mere numbers — “worthless” statistics — that no longer resonate, because we have become comfortably numb to them. As you keep imagining, you will see countless children waiting like sacrificial lambs to be slaughtered on the altar of the international community’s complete and utter moral bankruptcy.

What happened to our moral responsibility? How can we watch Aleppo’s systematic destruction and allow the daily massacre of hundreds of innocent women and children? I shed tears for every child. I weep for every little lifeless body who never knew what was happening around them, or why they were ever born.

No words can describe the atrocities and savagery raging in Syria, and yet they are met with indifference and ineptitude by the international community and America. If we do not rise to stop this madness, who will?

How many more times should we attempt to establish a ceasefire with Russia only for it to be violated again and again? Putin is a ruthless and deceitful dictator with no conscience or human decency. His ambition in the Middle East trumps the lives of every Syrian citizen; he is morally corrupt at his core.

We should have long since known that no ceasefire agreement with Russia will hold as long as Putin believes that time is on his side, and that he can further consolidate his gains because of our unwillingness to put an end to the slaughter with the use of force.

Only recently, John Kerry expressed deep frustration about the Obama Administration’s approach to resolving the conflict, and he correctly pointed out that if diplomacy is not backed by the credible threat of force, it is doomed to fail.

This is precisely why Putin and Assad felt they could violate the second ceasefire with impunity. Indeed, the failure to punish Assad when he crossed Obama’s red line and used chemical weapons in 2013 left him and Putin undeterred to indiscriminately kill and maim, leaving nothing but the shadows of hell lurking behind.

The question for the US is how much longer we can afford to watch from the sidelines and allow the unforgivable slaughter of innocent men, women, and children to continue unabated? Whether or not we aim to establish another ceasefire, we must first send a clear and unambiguous message to Putin and Assad.

Obama must immediately establish a no-fly zone with the full cooperation of Turkey, which is eager to do so; authorize the bombing of Assad’s runways and air force hangers to destroy much of his military planes; and provide moderate rebels such as the Free Syrian Army, which the US has been supporting from day one, with shoulder-fired rockets to down low-flying drones and helicopters to end the dropping of barrel bombs that kill indiscriminately and lay complete neighborhoods in ruin. These military measures will inhibit the Russians from attacking areas held by the rebels, as Putin would certainly not want to escalate tensions with the US.

This may seem as if we are waging a proxy war against Russia. Yes we are; we have been waging a proxy war against Russia for five years. We have been supporting the rebels against Assad while Russia has been aiding Assad’s militarily; what’s worse, more than a year ago it openly joined the military campaign.

While the battle against ISIS is necessary, it should not have been done at the expense of leaving Putin and Assad to hammer the rebels freely, and in the process kill an untold number of innocent civilians.

To be sure, Obama’s unwillingness to take forceful actions in Syria in the past five years led to the disintegration of the country, which is a continuation of Bush’s disastrous Iraq war, only in another form.

Taking such decisive military measures is still in line with President Obama’s unwillingness to introduce ground troops in yet another regional conflict because a) it does not risk the lives of many of our soldiers, and b) it will not cause considerable collateral damage. We cannot remain idle because the alternative is simply unthinkable.

Putin would have a completely free hand to do what he wishes in Syria, and be able expand his outreach to other countries in the region, substantially enhance his credibility as an unwavering supporter of his allies, and dangerously infringe on America’s sphere of geostrategic influence with impunity.

Iran will not hesitate to further increase its military and material support of Assad, consolidate its presence in Syria, and kill as many rebels “in the name of Allah.” It will be further emboldened to intimidate the Gulf States and intensify its military campaign in Yemen in its pursuit of regional hegemony.

Assad, who has been gaining both in territory and prestige in recent months as a result of Putin’s unmitigated support, will have no reason to compromise and will continue to fight to the last rebel to ensure that he will be a significant part of any future solution to the conflict.

Though Russia, Iran and Assad are guilty of war crimes, they sadly still have a role to play in shaping Syria’s future. However, no negotiation with Putin should ever take place before we undertake such a military campaign, and any future negotiations must also be conditional upon the cessation of all hostilities by Putin and Assad first.

Abandoning Syria to the whims of Putin and Assad and allowing the merciless butchering of its people is a betrayal of our most cherished moral values. We must rise to stop the evil perpetuated by Putin, Assad and Khamenei, or forfeit our moral responsibility and our credibility with our friends and allies.

President Obama’s legacy is on the line. He must either rise to meet the challenge by taking courageous and decisive military measures, saving the lives of countless Syrians and paving the way for his successor to pursue a new strategy to end the civil war through strength — or continue his futile diplomacy, watch the systematic disintegration of a whole country and the slaughter of its people with apathy and indifference, leave a tarnished legacy that will haunt him for the rest of his life and beyond, severely damage America’s international standing, and undermine its critical global role in the pursuit of peace and stability.

I want to believe that Obama will not allow America to descend this low, where the Trumps of our time can rise.

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  • ZoomZoomDiva

    This is none of our business. We have no moral responsibility to interfere. It is not our duty or responsibility to impose our morals and beliefs on other nations, rather we should inspire them by how we operate our own country. Unfortunately, we have a lot of work to do to be worthy of inspiring anyone to be like us, and that takes precedence over global policing.

  • pacman

    “moderate rebels such as the Free Syrian Army, ” You’re kidding and do you really want a war with Russia. Far more lives would be lost.

  • Jonah

    Alon, a man with a good heart and compassion for the worlds abused, the poor and the collateral damage of heartless wars. It’s this compassion that feeds obama it greased the wheels for his path of mayhem and destruction. As the Isis terrorists cut the hearts out of Christians and eat them as they are still beating obama continues to fund them and champions his cause with what he calls Russian atrocities. I thought you should be let in on a closely held secret this entire war was initiated by obama to draw Israel into the conflict hoping Russia will nuke Israel obama can claim no blood on my hands it was the stupid Israelis. Do not get involved in this war….do you get that….Israel do not get involved. Defend your borders, if it requires offensive action take it. But stay in close contact with Putin or you will be toast. As long as you stay above board on this God will have your back but He cannot protect you if you go for your own throats. Once you contact Putin and he makes the wrong moves he will be in the cross hairs of God, that’s where you want him.

  • henrytobias
  • AmadeoDeLosRios

    The Rebels are as anti-Semitic as it gets. They’re not our friends. They may not be ISIS but last time I checked Al Qaeda is still our enemy. You do not bring democracy to a country by supporting terror and armed insurgency. As much as we possibly dislike Assad’s Syria, change would’ve eventually taken place the peaceful way, as it happened to Spain after Franco. This “humanitarian interventionism” is a cancer. Let’s not forget how the war begun in Syria, we should’ve stopped Turkey and Qatar advancing their Islamist ideology and fanning the flames to their advantage.

  • The suggestions in this article, like establishing a “no-fly zone” over Syria, could result in a direct conflict between U.S. and Russian forces. America does not have air superiority over Syria, and would likely lose a lot of pilots, due to Russia’s superior air defenses. The time to act was before Russia “filled the power vacuum” left by the U.S. And America is increasingly led by amoral politicians that have no strategic vision.

  • graylens

    sometimes it seems that Obamas’ foreign policy is to create chaos. When Obama first took office one of his first acts was to re establish diplomatic relations with Assad and to pressure Israel to surrender the Golan. Obama told us that Assad was western educated and thinking that he could be trusted and was a peace partner. Obama has repeatedly betrayed potential allies by letting them take risks then abandoning them

  • Michael Garfinkel

    When I read inane statements like “President Obama’s legacy is on the line” my eyes glaze over and I stop reading.

    Obama’s legacy is a legacy that will live in infamy, even without the Syria debacle.

  • Jim Martin

    I fully agree with what must be done in this article with the exception of including not Turkey in the no fly zone. Its people are friends and allies, but not its President Erdogan and the Ruling AKP party who has hijacked the democratic process in Turkey, not just with Kurds or even the PKK, but the vicious persecution of anyone with a different opinion. It reminds me of the SA Brown Shirts and Black Shirts in Nazi Germany in 1930s, but without international aspirations, only crushing internal dissent of any stripe.

    This is a President & a Party intimidated opposition parties and voters in the last election (acts that would land our leaders in Jail for election fraud), labels any dissent against them as Terrorism, including Smurfs!. Held a common border with ISIS for years until recently after SDF/YPG/YPJ took Manbij (while at the same time sealing off the rest of their border to Syrian Kurds), Erdogan lied to President Obama last July before launching 3 air strikes on ISIS and almost 400 against PKK Kurds facing ISIS in Iraq (do you really want drag the PKK back into Turkey to by repeatedly baiting and provoking them?. Erdogan did). Now since July 2015 ended the truce from 2012/13 with the PKK when they both should be fighting ISIS together . The murder of the two Turkish police who might have worked with ISIS in the Suroc bombing should have been treated as a double murder/homicide instead using it as a pretext to bomb the PKK Kurds in Iraq facing ISIS. It reminded me of the false Polish raid Hitler staged as a pretext to declare war on Poland in WW II. Oh, yes and they shell Syrian YPG/YPJ forces in Syria regularly from Turkey

    So under these perverse circumstances, let Erdogan and the AKP participate in a no fly zone so they can go after Syrian Kurds yet again? No only no, but Hell No. Not even the American Admin is that dense after Erdogan screwed them repeatedly. Its like trying to cut a deal with Radovan Karadzic who is already the Hague facing war crimes, soon to be joined by members of the AKP party which is not unlike having the KKK and the Grand dragon in the Whitehouse. Lovely, just lovely!
    Turkey and its people are our friends and NATO allies including our brothers and sisters in the TSK armed Forces . Erdogan and the AKP? Not only no, but hell no!

  • Rob Miller

    This is ridiculous. Syria is NOT worth getting into a war with Putin over, and in fact those ‘moderate Syrian rebels’ are jihadis belonging to al-Nusrah and similar groups. They’re just as bad as ISIS and used to be allied with them until the two groups got into a squabble over who was going to head the Caliphate.

    This would be the same farce Obama pulled off in Libya – unseating a dictator who while disgusting wasn’t doing us any harm and protecting jihadis with our air force in an illegal war.

    Civilians always get the worst of it in a war, but there’s a simple solution. Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Qatar have plenty of $$$ and land.

    I’m sure they want to help their fellow Muslims and solve this humanitarian problem by taking them in,yeah?

    BTW, it is Obama who has torpedoed every attempt at a diplomatic solution, NOT Putin.

  • Ray Flores

    What bunch of BS. Who created,trained, funded and is supporting it. The West is pissed because The Syrians and Russians are defeating their creation to get Syria for the Saudi’s pipeline. Those poor people getting killed are ISIS with different names to make them Isis lght for the sheeple. Do not let the west use rope-a-dope to stop the kiling. You go Assad/Vlad

  • Dux

    I’m afraid you’re hope is naive. Obama decided long ago that he would abandon Syria to the Russianss. Now, even if they wanted to, the US military is physically incapable of penetrating the air defense in Syria without unacceptable losses.

    • William C. McKee

      Obama, at least once in a while should have sought “advice and consent” from Congress. As a professor he taught and graded students on such matters didn’t he? They might have pointed out, that for whatever the Administration’s judgment call against Assad, he did appear to be protecting the Christians and other minorities. Was all of our very public moralizing really over some oil deal — and not over any kind of right and wrong at all? Lust for this black goo, seems to have tainted what goes for our souls.