Monday, April 30, 2012

The Policy of Pretend

Charles Krauthammer looks at the president's Syria policy and sees incoherence:
Obama’s other major announcement — at Washington’s Holocaust Museum, no less — was the creation of an Atrocities Prevention Board. I kid you not. A board. Russia flies plane loads of weapons to Damascus. Iran supplies money, trainers, agents, more weapons. And what does America do? Supports a feckless U.N. peace mission that does nothing to stop the killing. (Indeed, some of the civilians who met with the peacekeepers were summarily executed.) And establishes an Atrocities Prevention Board. With multi-agency participation, mind you. The liberal faith in the power of bureaucracy and flowcharts, of committees and reports, is legend. But this is parody.

Now, there’s an argument to be made that we do not have a duty to protect. That foreign policy is not social work. That you risk American lives only when national security and/or strategic interests are at stake, not merely to satisfy the humanitarian impulses of some of our leaders. But Obama does not make this argument. On the contrary. He goes to the Holocaust Museum to commit himself and his country to defend the innocent, to affirm the moral imperative of rescue. And then does nothing of any consequence.

If Obama wants to stay out of Syria, fine. Make the case that it’s none of our business. That it’s too hard. That we have no security/national interests there. In my view, the evidence argues against that, but at least a coherent case for hands off could be made. That would be an honest, straightforward policy. Instead, the president, basking in the sanctity of the Holocaust Museum, proclaims his solemn allegiance to a doctrine of responsibility — even as he stands by and watches Syria burn.

If we are not prepared to intervene, even indirectly by arming and training Syrians who want to liberate themselves, be candid. And then be quiet. Don’t pretend the U.N. is doing anything. Don’t pretend the U.S. is doing anything. And don’t embarrass the nation with an Atrocities Prevention Board. The tragedies of Rwanda, Darfur, and now Syria did not result from lack of information or lack of interagency coordination, but from lack of will.
Perhaps someday we'll get an explanation from our President or our Secretary of State as to why we had a duty to kill perhaps thousands of Libyan soldiers to protect Libyan civilians from Qaddafi's threat to do them harm, but we have done nothing perceptible to help the tens of thousands of Syrian civilians who are currently being slaughtered in the streets of their cities by Bashar Assad. We have thus far been given no explanation whatsoever for the disparity in the way we've reacted to these two situations.

If there's a reason why we go to war in one case but not in the other the American people have a right to know it, and if the administration won't tell us, and the media won't press them on their reasoning, then we're perfectly justified in assuming that there simply is no defensible rationale for it. We're justified in concluding, in other words, that this administration is simply pretending to have a policy and in fact has no idea what it's doing, at least insofar as resisting tyranny is concerned.