Bashar’s narrative that it is not a liberal uprising but a sectarian civil war is the narrative that now prevails. His use of chemical weapons has come and gone. Whatever international community intervened intervened on his behalf: Iran, Hezbollah and Russia made certain he had the means to stay in power. Those opposed used Obama’s favorite weapon: rhetoric. But even that has stopped, some seem to prefer empowering Bashar’s narrative so that we don’t have to bother anymore. It seems to me we now no longer want to be bothered with Syria in the same fashion that we never cared enough about Congo or Darfur or Sri Lanka or Myanmar. Outrage alone can’t fix it and we’re not prepared to do much more.
Putin must feel encouraged by that as he must feel encouraged by western dithering so far. While the situation in Ukraine is far more complex, the Kremlin could take various further escalatory steps and see what happens. If it really is too much, they can take a step back and hold onto their gains. There’s not a guiding principle nor strong faith in principles on the western end that establishes red lines or can rally a united response and maintain it. Poland and other Eastern European nations will drag us into confronting Russia, but still what are we really prepared to do in response and will it be enough?
What would help is a robust and immediate sanctions regime targeting the siloviki and the oligarchy and language in a zero sum format that they’ll would understand. The message has to be that if they want to play in financial markets and receive FDI, they’ll play by the rules or not at all. And while setting up LNG export terminals is a complex procedure within the US dept of energy, it must be fast tracked.
But most of all faith in the postwar order has to be restored so that it becomes an inspiration again as it is for the people of Ukraine and used to be for many in the middle east. We failed the latter and may fail the former, if we do so then we might as well fail ourselves, disband NATO and the EU and default over the reigns of power to whomever is best at the zero sum game.