The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Shame on you, ambassador

U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power is either deluding herself or misleading the public on the monstrous Syria policy of the administration in which she serves.

Let’s review the facts. We tried, against the admonitions of conservatives and former officials, to woo Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Even after he commenced killing his own people, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called him a “reformer.” After full-blown civil war broke out, we refused to arm the non-jihadi rebels. When we said we would do so, it took months and months for anything to arrive; instead we supported humanitarian aid delivered to the Assad government. We never put in a no-fly zone or, as Bill Clinton did in Bosnia, deployed air power to tip the balance of power away from Assad. This spring, we denied, contrary to the findings of our allies, that chemical weapons had been used. When we no longer could deny the use of weapons of mass destruction, and after announcing  it was crucial to hold Assad accountable and deter further use, the president wilted. First he was going to act, then he threw it to Congress and then his secretary of state invited the Russians in. Assad remains in power. In fact, he’s now essential to the disarmament scheme. The lesson now is that the United States will only ask for WMDs after they are used and will not act when more than 100,000 civilians are killed.

The policy is geopolitically indefensible (rattling allies, empowering Iran) and immoral. Yet, Power declares, “President Obama has put in play every single tool in the toolbox, short of military action. It is the most heartbreaking circumstance confronting us today. . . . I’d be careful about suggesting we are not taking the atrocities seriously. This is something the president gets briefed on every day. He’s always asking what we can do.”

It is not so heartbreaking, however, to have acted sooner or more robustly. What he can do? She must be daft to see this as true concern rather than moral evasion. (What does she tell him I wonder? Does she give him a list of options or shake her head in sympathy telling him, “That’s a hard one. Yes siree.”) And, as the Politico reporter points out, she sets up a false choice:

However, Power suggested that the main policy alternative was a U.S. invasion of Syria. “Reasonable people have agreed to disagree about whether invading  Syria is a good idea for the United States,” she said.
While other prominent figures in the bureaucracy pushed for more aggressive U.S. action in Syria, Obama and aides close to him have put up the greatest resistance to U.S. involvement, administration officials said.

The woman who made a career of urging stronger support for human rights, winning a Pulitzer Prize in the process, is reduced to spinning for a disastrous policy that has allowed more than 100,000 souls to perish, seen the return of polio and watched millions of refugees flood into other countries. Surely she knows this. Surely she knows the president could have acted sooner.

It temporarily might make her feel better to recite her talking points, but like the officials in power during the Rwanda genocide and Srebrenica mass murders, she now is among those who defended inaction when thousands of lives might have been saved. She — and everyone in the administration who defended the president’s mockery of the admonition “never again” — will be held to account, if only by history. If everyone gets one line in history, hers will be: Spun for Obama, did nothing for Syrians.