Secretary Clinton has, finally, realized that the U.N. is not the panacea that our friends in any variety of administrations hoped it would be. To critics of U.N. operations and attitudes, the surprise is that Secretary Clinton appears ready to abandon U.N. processes.
The motivation is another set of recalcitrant roadblocks erected by Russia and China, this time regarding Syria. Now that it is likely too late Madam Secretary is prepared to pursue other forms of redress against the Assad regime; to seek other ‘allies and partners’ to bring pressure on the Assad regime. She referred to the Security Council as impotent. It appears to have dawned on Secretary Clinton that that the same roadblocks China and Russia have insisted on regarding Iran, apply to Syria as well, totalitarian regimes protecting other totalitarian regimes using unjustified faith in the U.N. to accomplish their mission. Who would have thought it?
Madam Secretary does, however, have a problem. Where to take opposition to Syria, absent direct U.S. action? Europe nearly ran out of bullets in Libya, Europe is exceptionally limited militarily and has demonstrated a major reluctance to engage in sanctions where there may be an actual short term price to pay for doing the right thing in the long run. Again, Iran is our prime example of U.N. impotence to quote the Secretary.
The Arab League is and always has been exceptionally reluctant to bring the hammer down on anyone in the Middle East, absent what they consider an existential threat. The Byzantine politics of the Middle East restricted to rhetorical criticism of Assad. The Arab League appears unprepared to do anything of actual substance. Honor among thieves? They, no doubt, fear that significant action against Syria will provide Syrian ally Iran with a rational to engage those who materially stand against the Syrian regime. Iran is capable of punishing its neighbors; it has been doing so for many years.
Why are Middle Eastern countries so reluctant? First, there is Islam which prohibits acts against fellow Muslims; it is applied selectively, but functions as justification. “Hey, we tried”! Then there is the common thread of totalitarian regimes in the region; what happens to one could happen to others. There is, as well, the well worn approach of letting the U.S. do it; then feigning disgust at the fact that we did or how we did it. Now, as the U.S. speeds toward disengagement in the Middle East there is no military backstop that could effectively control Syria, no price to pay in the view of the Syrian regime.
Ultimately, aside from kind words from the outside world, Syrians are on their own. At least they’re getting kind words, which the Iranian uprising did not receive. As long as Assad enjoys support from the majority of the Army the bloodshed will continue in Syria. If Bashar Assad follows the lead of his father there is a massacre in the future of the Syrian people.
Perhaps next time, there will be a next time, all of the involved parties will forget about a U.N. imprimatur and do what has to be done. Perhaps we will remember that strong, resolute leadership does not grow out of a committee or a Security Council. Surprise!!