The Tragedy of Aleppo

As I discussed two days ago, rebel held Aleppo in Syria seems about to finally fall. The rebels have mounted a heroic counter-attack, but, it seems, in vain. The fall of Aleppo now is a direct consequence of the failure of Western nations to intervene decisively early in the conflict. I make no secret of my opposition to the Assad regime and have reported before (albeit briefly) on his “Bureaucracy of Death”. The Assad regime is brutal and a terror to the people it claims to rule. It has used chemical weapons in the past and appears to have done so again in just the past week. Meanwhile, the West wrings its hands. But why do I put so much responsibility and blame for the current state of Syria at the feet of Western leaders? There are a few reasons.

First, practically speaking, the West (namely the United States, France, and Britain) have a monumental advantage in the weapons technology, logistical infrastructure, intelligence, and experience required for the kind of major military intervention that Syria would have been. While Russia and Iran have proven quite capable allies to the regime, they could not hope to match the potential fiscal and military resources available to NATO to support the Syrian opposition. And neither do NATO’s non-Western allies have the resources necessary for this kind of intervention. In the region, only Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf Kingdoms have the requisite stockpile of weapons and money to support the opposition. But none of the Gulf Kingdoms have the requisite experience, intelligence, and logistics needed. Saudi Arabia is quite new to foreign adventures, and judging by their stalled intervention in Yemen they do not quite know what they are doing (relying on US intelligence to make their strikes effective). Britain, France, and the United States have together an incredible wealth of past experience to draw upon and vast military resources at their disposal. Thus, given that only the West (NATO) had the capabilities required to intervene decisively on behalf of the Syrian opposition, the current slaughter in Syria rests on their failure to act.

But this is more than just a question of capabilities; it is a question of doing what is right. Under the mantle of “Never Again,” the nations of NATO, and Britain, France, and the US in particular, have long claimed themselves to be champions of democracy and human rights. And indeed they have been successful in many cases. But the moral high ground is slipping from beneath them. The Arab Spring represented the largest, pro-democracy movement in the history of the Arab World, and among the largest in global history. But the West has done little to prevent the hopes and aspirations of the Arab Spring from being choked in blood, dust, and chains. There has been near silence in reaction to General Sisi’s seizure of Egypt and the deep oppression that followed. The horrors unleashed by the Assad regime have been condemned in name only. Actions are wanting. Inaction has amounted to a tacit acceptance of the savagery of the Syrian regime.

And now as Aleppo falls and the once optimistic rebels are crushed, the West is left to wonder: how many times are we to say “Never Again” before we mean it? How many ‘Red Lines’ must be crossed before action is taken? How much longer are we to watch Syria bathe itself in blood and tears? We sit on the sidelines and ask ourselves these questions, as the people of Syria are trampled back into slavery and the dream of freedom dies.

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