Secretary Kerry, Call in Your Diplomats. It’s Time to End the Genocide.
In an earlier Medium piece, I offered a layman’s history of the Assad regime and its pathological cruelty. I called on President Obama to end the Syrian genocide. Now, in the wake of unspeakable acts by the Russians, and renewed savagery by the Assad regime, I suggest we thank Secretary Kerry for his tireless efforts and ask that he, too, call on President Obama to end the genocide in the only way possible.
Dear John Kerry,
It’s time. Retire the diplomats. Change the game.
I’ll use what I can to get your attention. You and I shared meals at Jonathan Edwards college at Yale. I was a year behind you. Go, Bulldogs.
Earlier this week, I published a citizen’s history of the Syrian war, including yesterday’s cowardly bombing of the UN humanitarian aid convoy, presumably by Russian air forces. In the piece, written before the crumbling of the latest ceasefire and Assad’s resumption of bombing civilians in their homes and hospitals, I made a public appeal to President Obama, arguing that the ceasefire could not work.
Please, Mr. President, I said, consider destroying or disabling Assad’s standing planes and artillery, the death machinery of five years of genocide. Minimize human casualties as much as possible, warn the Russians, and stay out of their way. I spent 4000 words arguing that Assad will never negotiate either a true end to his genocidal war, nor his own departure, on the basis of diplomacy alone. There are political, military, sectarian, and pathological reasons for this. And we’ve seen what Putin’s so-called cooperation with us really amounts to — a green light to collaborate more vigorously with Assad in attacking civilians, hospitals, and UN humanitarian aid.
When the last ceasefire began, which you, Mr. Secretary, are still trying to salvage, Assad repeated his vow to regain all territory by any means. Before the pause, you honorably urged the rebels we support to hold back, to give peace a chance. Assad paused just long enough to reload, reinforce his siege of Aleppo, and go back to killing civilians. With a stronger military position, he is less likely to negotiate in good faith than he ever was.
No one in any position of authority has worked harder to stop the killing by civilized means than you have. But at a certain point, don’t we have to stop doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a new result?
Or, to put it in your own poignant, passionate words at the UN yesterday:
How can people go sit at a table with a regime that bombs hospitals and drops chlorine gas again and again and again and again and again and again, and acts with impunity? Are you supposed to sit there and have happy talk in Geneva under those circumstances when you’ve signed up to a ceasefire and you don’t adhere to it? What kind of credibility do you have with any of your people?
That begs another question: what about our credibility? I know we’re the only grown-ups on the field, but how long do we continue saying, “We can’t risk war with the Russians,” step back, and once again voice hope that diplomacy may somehow work? Especially when the result of that inaction is not just a stuck process, the usual dilemma of broken negotiations, but the continuance — no, an acceleration, this time — of genocide against unarmed civilians, against children, against doctors, hospital patients, rescuers in white helmets, and volunteer aid workers?
You said it yourself, Secretary Kerry: They are doing all this with impunity. Putin and Assad continue slaughtering Syrian civilians (far more than jihadists), risking collateral killing of all kinds — including possibly hitting our own advisers on the ground. But the US needs to allow this to happen to avoid the risk of escalation? In effect, they continue with impunity, but we should continue appeasing the dictators, and rely on yet more diplomacy which will hopefully lead to restraint? Isn’t this starting to sound a little…Munich-y?
Do we believe that Putin will pick a war with us to protect his little buddy, even though his own planes and weapons haven’t been touched? To defend the killing equipment of a genocidal regime?
This is where it gets exquisitely agonizing. If we say, no, we’re the reasonable ones, the risks are too great, hold back, let them continue while we call for more talk…it’s practically a certainty that in the next year, 100,000 more men, women, and children will be charred to death in their own neighborhoods.
Mr. Secretary, your boss has more world prestige than any leader alive. He could take a measured risk, without trying to pick a winner in the conflict, and just try to save some undefended lives, really earn that Nobel Prize. He is leaving in less than four months. He could hand Hillary a more balanced mess, one that doesn’t tilt dangerously toward more killing and a likely Assad victory. (Or he could do with restraint what Trump would never do at all, preferring to go boar-hunting with Putin, or, who knows, really go off the tracks and start pushing buttons if someone in that rumble disrespects him.)
John Kerry, you’re a good man and deserve better than what the Bush swift-boaters did to you, what your carping critics make of your tireless efforts, and what these monsters in the Middle East are doing to your legacy. Call your boss and say, “Mr. President, my work is done. It’s time to stop appeasing a madman; it’s time to end a genocide.”