Consider the course of President Obama’s Syria strategy. For years he tried to engage Bashar al-Assad, sending the unctuous Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and his heiress wife to hobnob with Assad and the Mrs. When peaceful demonstrations in the halcyon days of the “Arab Spring” were met with violence, arrests and murders by the regime, Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton insisted he could still be a “reformer.” Then, the administration belatedly decided he was a very bad guy and should go. But nothing would the United States do about it but punt it to the United Nations, where the despotic regimes of Russia and China decided it wouldn’t do to support freedom-seeking people. The United States wouldn’t consider arming the rebels or, heaven forbid, using our own military to protect civilians.
Worse yet, Kofi Annan, under whose nose genocidal atrocities in Rwanda and Srebrenica were perpetrated, was dispatched to Damascus. The Obama administration was pleased to hide behind Annan’s skirts and continue doing nothing about the slaughter. What had been a widely held, high-minded stance (Assad should go) — albeit one divorced from an policy to accomplish that end — was then transformed into a search for a “cease fire,” that naturally would leave Assad firmly in control, the murders of thousands to be covered up, and the strangulation of a movement to oust Iran’s closest ally. (And to no one’s surprise any “truce” was shortlived, as we learned about “regime forces firing dozens of tank shells and mortar rounds at neighborhoods in the opposition stronghold of Homs, hours before the arrival of a first team of U.N. truce monitors.”)
Jonathan Schanzer and Claudia Rossett, writing in the New Republic say we should have smelled a rat as soon as Annan was dispatched. They remind us that, in addition to the Rwanda and Srebrenica mass murders, Annan was been behind the monstrously corrupt oil-for-food program:
The program, run by the U.N. from 1996 until Saddam Hussein’s overthrow in 2003, was supposed to ease the pain imposed on Iraq’s people by sanctions targeting Saddam’s regime. Instead, Oil-for-Food evolved into one of the most corrupt failures in the history of humanitarian relief, while Annan urged its expansion and praised its performance.
Oil-for-Food expanded into a global web of graft. Saddam skimmed and smuggled billions out of oil production meant for humanitarian relief, using the money to pay the families of Palestinian suicide bombers, bribe for influence on the Security Council, buy luxury cars, and procure weapons. Syria, incidentally, was one of Saddam’s major conduits for smuggling oil out of Iraq, and smuggling weapons in. . . .
In 2005, Annan’s handpicked director, Benon Sevan, was accused by the U.N.’s own inquiry of having pocketed money from the program. In 2007, Sevan was indicted in the Southern District of New York. Sevan proclaimed innocence, but never faced justice. He fled to Cyprus despite Annan’s assurances he would remain in Manhattan to cooperate with investigators.
It also emerged that the secretary general’s own son, Kojo Annan, profited from working for a Swiss company, Cotecna Inspection SA, hired by the secretariat for lucrative inspection work in Iraq under Oil-for-Food.
Annan sure does exemplify the body he serves, doesn’t he? The fondness for playing footsie with despotic regimes, the willingness to do nothing in the face of human rights atrocities and the talent to wrap it all up in a sanctimonious bow — no wonder Obama deemed Annan such a good choice for the job. (Jackson Diehl notes: “Civil war may rage in Syria, with thousands of deaths and a potentially major effect on U.S. strategic interests. But Obama is determined to do nothing that would take away his stump speech boast that the ‘tide of war is receding.’ ”) He couldn’t have done a “better” job himself, if by “better” you mean cooling tensions just enough to take the wind out of the opposition’s sails, giving Assad breathing room and putting Syria back on the course to continued despotism.
Conservatives joke from time to time that Obama would be better suited to being U.N. secretary-general than U.S. president. They usually mean that crack in reference for his disdain for all that pro-American parochialism and his infatuation with multilateral bodies.
But the match between Obama and the U.N. (as evidenced by Obama’s simpatico with Annan) would be worthy of eHarmony: Dislikes military force in defense of the West’s interests and values? Check. Fondness for strongmen? Check. Disinclination to recognize mass murder? Check. Moral equivalence a must? Check.
With a little help from his soulmate Annan, Obama has managed to throw Assad a lifeline in the midst of a promising uprising against one of the world’s most brutal regimes. Too bad the same was not afforded to the Syrian people.