In “Obama’s Turning Point” on July 31, syndicated columnist Michael Gerson states that President Barack Obama “did almost nothing” in the face of Syrian atrocities, graphically and courageously documented by a photographer in the criminal and forensics department of the Syrian military police who was identified by the pseudonym Caesar.
Yet Mr. Gerson doesn’t tell us what the president (actually Congress) should have done, even in retrospect. I agree with Mr. Gerson that atrocity prevention is a core national security interest. But he ought to be a little more circumspect, really.
Where was that “core national security interest” in the Reagan era, when the United States supported Saddam Hussein (and what has been the result of subsequent military intervention there, even if for other, fabricated reasons?), or in 1969, when Richard Nixon and Nelson Rockefeller were praising Papa Doc Duvalier, a dictator in Haiti comparable in his brutality and human rights abuses to Bashar Assad, or when the Bush administration was quite happy to use Assad’s Syria for its extraordinary rendition purposes. Maybe he could have a discussion with former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney about that. The list is long.
We could begin by a more sincere commitment to the international rule of law, which would include accepting the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, and a more active role in developing the effectiveness of the United Nations. But that would require Congress to act, and even in the remote possibility that it does, we won’t see the results in the next news cycle.
Bruce L. Wilder