I just listened to four policy experts, or “Four Anglo-Saxon Men” on Syria at the McCain Institute…and I am almost tempted to complete a PhD in Middle East Studies just so I can write a dissertation on how horribly disappointing the consensus, or lack thereof, emerged from the panel. I no longer understand what a “moral imperative” means anymore, but I learned some new terms from the panelists: “Manic Interventionist” and “Grand Extricator”. These are labels that hawks sometimes use to describe U.S. consideration for human rights issues.
I rarely blog right after attending a policy debate or event, because some of the best advice from my baba is: sleep on it first, then make a decision–speaking or writing. But I can’t sleep: after attending the McCain Institute’s first debate in its series of foreign policy debate, I wish I could say that Syria was “lucky” to be selected as the first topic. The question posed to the four debaters was: “Should the United States Save Syria?” The question should have been “When?”. My response would have been: Yesterday.
For the last 22 months I have been blogging about Syria. Initially, I reviewed it from a political economy perspective in Aslan Media…then after the death toll mounted, despite peaceful protests, I reviewed it from a human rights perspective for Huffington Post. Consider that over 60,000 are dead because of the Assad regime’s intransigence and greed for power; more than 1.5 million Syrians are internally displaced, and an additional 1 million Syrian refugees are the result of the Shabeeha raiding towns, the Syrian Armed forces bombing bread and gas lines populated by civilians…and oh yeah: Syrian forces are raping their own Syrian women. That’s a Warcrime. That’s a “Redline” for all the bureaucrats and military analysts who obsess over chemical weapons. (This obsession is nearly pornographic.)
Neither approach was working. In 2012, I tried the Diaspora approach. No change in the US, Russian or other non Arab countries’ stance. I have written about Syria for almost every outlet that I am allowed to contribute to…but nothing has changed. So for the moderator that has asked all of us attendants to “write positive reviews” of this event. Are. You. Kidding Me?
Syrian women, children–minority and “majority”–are still being shot at, tortured and rape while one of your debaters lectured us on the Lincoln Doctrine (Aaron David Miller, former U.S. Bureaucrat), and another argued not to intervene as ethnic cleansing is taking place because more intervention will inspire more ethnic cleansing (Joshua Landis, Director of Middle East Studies at University of Oklahoma).
Sadly, I almost rooted for the more conservative debater: Leon Wieseltier because “No one on panel has addressd that breadlines have been bombed, the civilians R suffering genocide, ” as I tweeted this, Wieseltier explained that even a “cold-hearted” pragmatist will see that “U.S. human rights interests intersect with its strategic interests” because the conflict has already spilled over and is only going to worse. (Yes, I realize that there are circles that call Wieseltier ‘liberal’, but that has been among Conservatives…and he has served on the “Committee for the Liberation of Iraq“. So, yeah, I’m not convinced enough to call him “liberal”. )
Ironically, the fourth debater, who focuses on U.S. and European Policy at Brookings, Robert Kagan, made the most sense. It was only fitting that he drew parallels with Bosnia to counter Landis’s point that ethnic cleansing will result if the U.S. intervenes.
So here’s my review as @PITAPOLICY who live-tweeted questions that received no answers: Are. You. Kidding. Me?!
For Tweets Replaying the points…here you go: