By GARY BAUMGARTEN
The Syrian government has escalated its attacks on its own populous, doing exactly what the NATO invasion of Libya was designed to stop there – shelling residential neighborhoods, CBS News is reporting.
This presents a problem for the United States, the United Nations and NATO. Should the international community be consistent in its approach to governments turning their military force against its unarmed populous? Or should it pick and choose which lives are valuable enough to actually save?
And here’s another, related question.
Do actions such as the NATO invasion of Libya deter other regimes from massacring their citizens? One would hope so, but apparently not.
Not if one looks at Syria. And at Bahrain. Or, for that matter, at Iran.
The Associated Press quotes German diplomats as saying that a number of European countries are now threatening to sanction Syria. One can only imagine how little impact that has on Damascus. Look at Iran. How successful have economic sanctions been at stopping repression there?
This is nothing new, of course. Governments turning on their own. Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s father viciously stopped an uprising when he was running things. The Syrian Human Rights Committee says 40,000 people were killed during the 1982 Hama massacre.
And in Jordan, in 1970, in what became known as Black September, then King Hussein turned his military against Palestinians. The PLO chief then, Yasser Arafat, claimed as many as 25,000 were killed, though that may have been an inflated figure.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is weighing in – asking Damascus to halt its oppression of its citizens and to let the UN in to investigate the situation. That would be nice, but not very likely. The New York Times quotes a Syrian business tycoon, a cousin of President Bashar al-Asad. as saying the nation is prepared to fight the protesters “to the end.”
Meanwhile, at the border to Lebanon, Syrians fleeing the carnage are being turned away, the Jerusalem Post reports.