America’s United Nations ambassador pronounced herself “disgusted” by the
Russian-Chinese double veto of a western-sponsored UN Security Council
resolution to facilitate armed intervention in Syria. Particular venom has been
aimed at Russia’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 US could now try a Plan
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 US Congress voted down
Clinton’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 States has
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 US,
have a legal right to “just say no.”
Having seen NATO’s abuse of the
Libya resolution as carte blanche for a NATO attack, Moscow and Beijing 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 “Rajak massacre”) – that a
humanitarian disaster was unfolding and that only armed intervention could
Such claims were just a mask to hide the reality: Western
support for an armed insurgency (the Libyan “National Liberation Army,” the
“Kosovo Liberation Army”), to convert a political confrontation into a civil
war, even a jihad; and 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 NATO moves in, the “tyrant”
(Milosevic, Gaddafi) is eliminated, and the rebels are installed as the
“democratic government.” Congratulations all around.
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 extreme harm done to Orthodox Christian Serbs by the
NATO-supported Kosovo Liberation Army terrorists. 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-Gaddafi 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 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. In Syria, 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?
The writer is a
principal in a public advocacy firm based in Washington, DC. Prior to entering
the private sector he was senior foreign policy adviser to the Republican
leadership of the United States Senate and served as as an American Foreign
Service Officer, in the Office of then Soviet Union Affairs.