June 15, 2012

Anne-Marie Slaughter’s June 10 Sunday Opinion commentary, “The justice in fighting for Syria,” made two questionable assumptions.

First, Ms. Slaughter assumed that a humanitarian need for justice is the primary, even sole, national interest the United States has in dealing with Syria. Surely, the White House must also assess the potential impact on other countries if U.S. forces are used without clear international sanction to oust the Assad regime.

Second, her suggestion that “a limited use of force” could be employed with majority support in the U.N. Security Council raises the question: What about Russia’s and China’s veto to using force? European NATO governments are not likely to endorse a plan that ignores the Security Council if Russia is opposed. Russia and China argue that political and economic pressure, not force, will in time bring change to Syria.  

Ms. Slaughter argued that “when governments cross the line” and engage in “crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, or grave and systematic war crimes against their own people,” the world should respond “with force if necessary” to deal with the leaders responsible for these crimes. This is a prescription for armed intervention just about anywhere that massive injustice occurs. Are Americans ready to take on that police role in 2012?  

Donald Nuechterlein, Charlottesville

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Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is right to denounce Russia’s role in fueling Syria’s atrocities against its civilian population [“Russia is arming Assad, U.S. says,” front page, June 13].

The Assad regime does not rely on the usual crowd-control methods, such as tear gas and batons. Instead, it uses war-grade heavy weaponry such as tanks, mortars and, more recently, attack helicopters to kill its own people. Citizen reports have identified helicopters gunships used in regime attacks in Farkia and Rastan, and helicopters with mounted machine guns in Azaz.

One way for Russia to prove that it is not arming Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and aiding in his commission of crimes against humanity is to disclose the cargo manifests of Russian arms shipments to Syria. Ms. Clinton should use her diplomatic leverage to obtain this information without delay. The U.S. government should also immediately designate the Russian arms exporter Rosoboronexport for sanctions.

Sadia Hameed, Washington

The writer is director of the crimes against humanity program at Human Rights First.