Aleppo is this year’s Guernica. But is it Obama’s fault? This guy says yes:
With the help of a ruthless ally in Russian head of state Vladimir Putin, Assad has reportedly finally managed to subdue the city, killing tens of thousands of civilians along the way. Yet while mainstream media figures sound the alarm today, Assad’s human rights atrocities are half a decade old. The situation in Aleppo is in part the product of President Barack Obama’s failure to lead in preventing Assad from making human rights violations a habit.
Had President Obama kept his word to punish Assad should he use chemical weapons on civilians in August 2012, no power vacuum would exist for Putin or jihadist elements to exploit in Aleppo. With Assad gone, Syria could have begun its rehabilitation process years before the devastation occurring today.
That comment comes from a Breitbart writer. I think this is deeply unfair to the president. You will recall that Obama wanted to intervene after Assad used chemical weapons, but there wasn’t sufficient support for it in Congress. The picture in Syria didn’t get any clearer, nor did the resolve of Washington behind a strategy. A number of conservative writers (including this one) opposed Obama getting the US drawn into Syria, in part because the civil war there is, and was, so complex that we had no idea who we would be supporting. Assad is a butcher, no doubt about it. But if Assad had lost, we had no guarantee at all that the good guys would have prevailed, as opposed to Al Qaeda or ISIS. Hell, we didn’t even know who the good guys were, or if they even existed in that boiling cauldron of hatred.
Whether he did it from a position of strength or weakness, President Obama made a prudent decision. The United States cannot stop every atrocity. Russia has behaved barbarously in supporting Assad, no doubt about it, just as Assad has been monstrous. Was the alternative any better? David Quinn in the Irish Catholic writes:
For the vast majority of Irish people following the siege of Aleppo in the media, it a clear-cut case of the ‘good guys’ vs the ‘bad guys’. The good guys are the rebels. In our imagination, they are freedom-fighters who will turn Syria into a liberal, Western-style democracy if they win.
The bad guys are Assad and his Russian ally, Vladimir Putin.
In fact, it would be better to regard this conflict as ‘bad guys’ vs ‘bad guys’. It is a bit like Hitler vs Stalin, or Iraq vs Iran when those two countries were engaged in a long war back in the days of Saddam Hussein. It is a case of choosing the lesser of several evils and it can be hard to know who is the least of these evils.
Earlier this month, Quinn interviewed top Syrian clerics — Muslim, Orthodox Christian, and Melkite Catholic — who were part of a delegation of Syrian religious leaders and doctors visiting Ireland. Quinn:
I spoke to various members of the group, and that only made it more apparent how misguided it is to view the Syrian conflict as a fight between good and evil.
It also became apparent that the clerics, without actually saying so, are terrified of what a rebel victory would mean for their communities, especially the Christian communities because in Syria it is not only ISIS that savagely persecutes Christians and other religious minorities. Other rebel groups do the same.
In Aleppo, for example, one of the main rebel groups is Fateh al-Sham, formerly called Al-Nursa which is closely linked to Al-Qaeda. It has turned its guns on numerous Western-backed rebels groups during the conflict.
The Western-backed groups, like the Free Syrian Army are not powerful enough to win the civil war. That has been one of the problems. No group has been strong enough to win the conflict quickly. But no sane person would want Al-Nusra or ISIS to win, least of all Syria’s Christians.
So, this is the situation faced by Christians and others in Syria; they are having to choose the lesser evil all the time because there is no ‘good guy’ capable of winning the war. The absolute best we can hope for is a compromise settlement following peace talks.
What has happened to the city of Aleppo is a hideous tragedy. Because of Assad’s victory, helped by the Russians, Aleppo’s Christians may this year celebrate Christmas. Here is what Syrian Christians had to live with under Islamist rebel rule:
“It is like going back 1,000 years seeing the barbarity that Christians are having to live under. I think we are dealing with a group which makes Nazism pale in comparison and I think they have lost all respect for human life,” explained Patrick Sookhdeo, founder of Barnabas Fund in 2015. “Crucifying these people is sending a message and they are using forms of killing which they believe have been sanctioned by Sharia law. For them what they are doing is perfectly normal and they don’t see a problem with it. It is that religious justification which is so appalling.”
“We are facing terrorist action in the whole geography of Syria,” Rev. Ibrahim Nseir, pastor of the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon and the Presbyterian Church in Aleppo, told Fox News from the ISIS de-facto Syrian capital of Raqqa in May. “They are destroying our churches, killing and kidnapping Christians, stealing our homes and our businesses.”
It doesn’t require one to canonize Assad or Putin to give thanks for the defeat of ISIS and its allies. It is hard to feel joy, though, given the cost of that victory to innocent men, women, and children of all religions there. But President Obama did the right thing keeping the US out of it. Colin Freeman, writing in the Telegraph:
Yet for all the criticisms that Mr Obama was weak on foreign policy, or even lacked a policy at all, there was one principle that he rightly stuck to. Namely, that America had been involved quite enough in the Middle East, and that it was time to get out. Not just because it waved a red-white-and-blue rag to jihadists, or because America was fed up of losing sons to wars on the other side of the world. But because it was high time, especially after the chaos of Iraq, for the region to sort its own affairs out. To grow up, in effect, and to stop blaming others for its problems. Or, indeed blaming others when they tried to help.