America’s U.N. ambassador pronounced herself “disgusted” by the Russian-Chinese double veto of a western-sponsored Security Council resolution to facilitate armed intervention in Syria. Particular venom has been aimed againstRussia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Effused one commentator, “Putin has sent a message to his own people: He . . . supports using violence and murder to help tyrants maintain power.”
The Wall Street Journal suggested: “Having been humiliated by the Russians, the U.S. could now try a Plan B. One precedent is Kosovo in the 1990s, another case where the Russians tried to block the world from acting. President Clinton ignored the Security Council and led a coalition to stop Slobodan Milosevic’s genocide against Kosovo Albanians.” (The Journal neglected to mention that the U.S. Congress voted downClinton’s authorization to use force – but he launched his illegal war anyway.)
Such a reading of the Syrian situation betrays both a faulty understanding of the rule of law and contempt for truth.
As the United Stateshas demonstrated repeatedly, often in defense of Israel, the UNSC veto exists for a reason: it is dangerous to world peace and stability for a Permanent Member to be backed into a corner and have its views and interests disregarded. Even when in the minority, Russia and China, no less than France, Britain, and the U.S., have a legal right to just say No. Having seen NATO’s abuse of the Libyaresolution as carte blanche for a NATO attack,Moscow andBeijing refused to be burned again.
As to the question of truth, we’ve seen this movie before, most recently in Libya, before that in Kosovo. Supported by pliant media, the western powers claimed – on the basis of dubious facts (impending slaughter in Benghazi) or outright fabrication (the “Racak massacre”) – that a humanitarian disaster was unfolding and that only armed intervention could prevent it. Such claims were just a mask to hide the reality: (1) western support for an armed insurgency (the [Libyan] “National Liberation Army,” the “Kosovo Liberation Army [KLA]“), to convert a political confrontation into a civil war, even a jihad; and (2) falsely depicting any government defense as “attacks on peaceful demonstrators” or (in the case of Kosovo) as “genocide,” to serve as moral justification for military action. Then (3) NATO moves in, the “tyrant” (Milosevic, Kaddafi) is eliminated, and the rebels are installed as the “democratic government.” Congratulations all around.
Except that after each putative success, nobody bothers to look back at either the lies that justified the intervention or its actual results. “Genocide” in Kosovo turned out to be about as real as Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction – unless one counts the actual eradication of Orthodox Christian Serbs by the NATO-supported KLA terrorists, also doubling as kingpins in the Albanian mafia. In Libya, now that the world’s gaze has shifted to Syria, fighting has emerged among tribal and ideological factions, with some areas even recaptured by ex-Kaddafi loyalists. But who cares about such details – on to Damascus!
Advocates of intervention claim the need to support the “Syrian people” (read: the “Free Syrian Army”) against the al-Assad government – as if government supporters aren’t also Syrian citizens. This facile division of “the people” versus “not the people” has an eerily Bolshevik ring to it, in which total victory can only mean the elimination of the designated losers. InSyria, that would mean first of all Alawites, Christians, and other minorities.
Instead, Russia and China call for genuine domestic dialogue and a political settlement. What is wrong with that?