Monday, December 9, 2013
Los Angeles Times
Syria's bloody turmoil, as offensive to Americans' sense of justice and freedom as it is harmful to our national interest, is a problem that seems to defy solutions.
Pundits, politicians and foreign policy experts call for a renewed focus on diplomacy and planning for a transition to democracy, yet as the black smoke drifts over Damascus and the United Nations spins its wheels, it's hard to see either approach making much headway. Perhaps it's time to consider other options.
On Thursday, Russia and China vetoed -- for the third time -- a Security Council resolution that would have led to sanctions against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad if it continues to violate a U.N. peace plan. Sanctions can be an effective foreign policy tool, and the international community should keep trying to impose them, but it's an uphill battle in Syria; Russian financial and strategic interests are closely tied to Assad's regime, and for Moscow to back down now would be highly uncharacteristic.
Syria is in a state of civil war that is in part a struggle by a disenfranchised majority against a brutal and autocratic regime, and in part a sectarian conflict between Sunni Muslims and the minority Alawite population that runs the country.
Perhaps this sectarian issue gets less attention than it deserves because, in a black-and-white sense, the Alawites are the bad guys. Why should the international community focus on protecting them?
The answer involves a combination of justice and practicality: Violent reprisals are seldom a just response to past oppression, and without further guarantees, it's hard to envision a peaceful end to this conflict.