As the fighting in Syria continues, even some of Butcher Assad’s closest allies are beginning to back away from his disgraced regime. In an announcement on Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov criticized Assad’s response to the Syrian uprising as an overreaction and a mistake, and stated that “no one is inviting him to Moscow.” The New York Times also reports that Russia has now endorsed UN and Arab League plans to broker a ceasefire between the two sides.Yet Lavrov has some harsh words for the West as well:
“It is for Assad to decide,” Mr. Lavrov said. “He will make his decision not because someone in Russia, or Moscow, has asked him to. In many Western capitals, he is discussed as if he is a war criminal. They say he has a spot in The Hague or an international tribunal. That means that those people who make these pronouncements should explain to him what his options are—but not us. And the main thing is that the Syrian people should decide.”
Much as we hate to agree, Lavrov is right about this. Threats to jail Assad as a war criminal do nothing to convince him to stop killing, instead giving him every incentive to cling to power, by whatever brutal means necessary. Hailing these threats of future prosecution as principled and just, the do-gooder community overlooks the practical implications for the safety of those they seek to protect. Human Rights Watch’s call for Syrian forces to be charged with crimes against humanity last November is only the most high-profile example of this attitude.This is a classic case of good intentions gone awry. Once again, the knee-jerk human rights crowd is taking actions that set the stage for the death of the innocent. Make a deal with Assad to get him out, and include a guarantee that if he keeps his head down Interpol won’t be knocking on his door. Any other course of actions encourages him to hang on until the bitter end and gives him reason to use any methods however brutal to stay in power. (He’s already earned a few life sentences, so nothing he does now can put him in more legal trouble while committing more atrocities helps him stay out of jail.) The longer the violence goes on, the more radicalized and fanatical some of his opponents will become, and the greater the chance that all Syria and perhaps its neighbors are awash in blood.Amazingly, the people who push this approach think of themselves as friends of human rights—and there are still people around who believe them.Sad to say, Mead’s First Law still holds: Bad do-gooders often do more harm than good do-badders.