December 9, 2013
Putting Syria on the map
Nice try by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner to change the subject to “vulture funds” at the G20 summit in St. Petersburg but the main concern of the world’s major powers was always going to be Syria. When a dictator like Basher al-Assad uses chemical weapons against his own people including children, he must be stopped — there are absolutely no subtleties about this issue (even if tossing a few cruise missiles into Syrian territory is not automatically the best means of achieving the objective either). In CFK’s case, her strong commitment to human rights at home cannot be diluted for external consumption or disguised by a hostility to United States “imperialism” which does nothing to help Syrian victims — even if turmoil in the Middle East would stand to boost a rising fuel import bill which threatens to condition Argentine economic policy for years to come. Argentina (and perhaps Latin America as a whole) owes the world a clearer stance on Syria than the passing mention by CFK (vaguely pro-pacifist with anti-US undertones) — in a word, she should be paying far more attention to “red lines” than “red circles.”
The proposed US strategy is far more debatable (including within the US itself) than the horror of what is occurring in Syria but this is all the more reason for the rest of the world community to unite behind what is so far largely a Franco-US initiative. Leaving the US out on a limb over Syria is almost a guarantee that Washington will pick the wrong remedy (or even none at all) and certainly that they will fail. The strategy currently contemplated by Washington of air strikes without “boots on the ground” and indifferent to its impact on the continuation of the al-Assad regime could simply provoke more chemical weapon deployment — or even convince al-Assad that any limited attack is a token gesture with no serious intention of overthrowing him for fear of the Muslim extremists in rebel ranks and the spread of conflict in a powder-keg region. But if US President Barack Obama drew a “red line” against the use of chemical weapons, then that “red line” should result in a bottom line of a red card for al-Assad. Preaching peace has done nothing to bring peace to Syria in the past couple of years.
The use of chemical weapons in Syria threatens everybody because of the precedent impunity would set for so many parts of the world — that is why the international community should confront this atrocity in unison.