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Feckless Human Rights Agenda Promotes Syrian Bloodbath

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.

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  • Jason

    This rather reminds me of the “unconditional surrender” demand the FDR insisted on in WWII. Churchill understood that it was a terrible mistake that rallied the German people and German military around the Nazi’s and gave the Soviet Union carte blanche in Eastern Europe.

    And then there was Japan…

  • Pedro Marquez

    I don’t think it makes sense to argue that threats to try Assad as a war criminal give him more incentive to kill. There is no evidence that any “deal” is in the works that would resolve anything, and the ruling Alawites have all the sectarian incentive they need to fight to the bitter end against a Sunni majority they hate and fear. Even in the very unlikely event that Bashar commits the total sectarian dishnonor of stepping down, hardened killers like brother Maher will keep fighting to defend Alawite rule. (If things really get bad for the ruling clique, they might retreat and try to establish an independent Alawite state like that which existed from 1920-1936).

    Obviously the toothless proclamations of Western do-gooders will not make Assad stand down. But they do serve the propaganda purpose of painting our enemies in a bad light, thus thinning the ranks of Western and Arab apologists for the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis.

    I agree that bad do-gooders do a lot of bad. But what exactly is a good do-badder?

  • f1b0nacc1

    Nonsense. Roosevelt (who I don’t care much for) was simply acknowleging the reality imposed by the deep involvement of the USSR in post-war planning. The Soviets would not accept any conclusion to the war which left the Germans less than absolutely prostrate, i.e. unconditional surrender, and FDR understood that after 1943, the Western Allies were no longer in a position to conclude a separate peace that wouldn’t eventually leave the USSR in control of all of Europe. Hence if the Western Allies wanted any role at all in the shaping of post-war Europe, they had to accept that Germany would have to be utterly crushed, for if they didn’t do it, the Soviets would do it themselves.

    And as for Japan, double-nonsense. The Japanese military (and for that part, most of the civilian leadership) were adamant that any surrender would guarantee the role of the Emperor (which in practice also meant the role of the military in the cabinet) and maintain the character of the Japanese state. The allies, quite correctly, assumed that this would mean that a post-war Japan would not renounce militarism, would not rid their government of wartime leaders like Tojo, and would not meaningfully disarm. This would only set the stage for another war in the future. Given that the Japanese (even after Hiroshima) maintained that surrender would only come with conditions which the Allies would never accept (they would supervise their own disarmament, they would retain some, if not all, of their pre-war acquistions in Korea and China, that their military leadership be retained intact, safe from warcrimes trials, etc.), and even after Nagasaki hard-core Japanese militarists attempted (and came closer to success than most like to admit) a last-ditch coup, the notion that the Japanese would have surrendered if not for our insistence on unconditional surrender is simply a convenient fiction promulgated by members of the Japanese leadership to excuse their own involvement in continuing the war.

    Normally I don’t carry much water for FDR, but in this case, he was right on the money. Churchill (whose grand strategic sense was never particularly strong, see Gallipoli for an excellent example) saw what he wanted to see, and even that vision was limited by the paralous state of the UK armed forces by the end of the war. There is no question that unconditional surrender put some steel in the spines of wavering Axis officers, but the nature of the war being fought left few alternatives.

  • f1b0nacc1


    I would suspect that any of the ‘do-badders’ reviewing the events surround Pinochet’s detention in the UK at the behest of a show-boating Spanish judge would be considerably less likely to cut a deal. With that said, your point regarding Assad’s willingness (or lack thereof) to cut a deal is most well-taken

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    “From time to time the Tree of Liberty must be watered with the blood of Tyrants and Patriots” Thomas Jefferson
    I think it is culturally important for the Syrians to fight the Tyrant. It’s not that I think Syrian Culture is suddenly going to be westernized by the fighting, any more than the Libyans were, but a step in the right direction is still progress.

  • Kris

    “Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov criticized Assad’s response to the Syrian uprising as an overreaction and a mistake”

    He then brought out a washbasin and washed his hands.

    Jason@1: On the other hand, it’s been a while since we’ve had a militarily aggressive Germany.

    Pedro@2, good point.

    In general, I once again offer my brothel suggestion.

  • Corlyss

    The do-gooder community has never been known for its political smarts. Why should they change now?

  • Kris

    They’re do-gooders, not do-smarters.

    [Are you running for dog-catcher? Call Kris for affordable slogans and catch-phrases. Installment plans available.]

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