The waning days of the Obama administration are now paired with the waning lives of Aleppo.
The U.S government and the American people look on helplessly as the Syrian troops backed by Russia and Iran puts a stranglehold on the last of the rebels and thousands of civilians clustered in a final, tiny corner of the blasted city. The Syrian civil war has long seemed distant to Americans, but we and people of all nations can now sympathize with the desperation of those trapped, including the elderly and children, and terrified of what is to come.
Republicans are eager to blame President Obama for this disaster and the president bears some responsibility for this end. He chose not to get militarily involved. Russian President Vladimir Putin had no qualms. U.S. hawks say Putin showed decisive leadership, but what he has shown in Aleppo, is what he has shown elsewhere: indiscriminate brutality.
History will judge whether Obama’s restraint kept the United States out of another quagmire. But history also left him few options. After the disaster of the Iraq invasion, it was time for the United States to let Mideast nations resolve their own problems.
Still it is painful for a generous and moral nation to watch the slaughter of cornered rebels and innocents alike. On Tuesday, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power spoke at the U.N. using the one weapon she had – shame. She said the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad, Russia and Iran have put an “ever-tightening noose” around tens of thousands of people.
But she seemed to know that her weapon was of no use. She asked, “Are you truly incapable of shame? Is there literally nothing that can shame you? Is there no act of barbarism against civilians, no execution of a child that gets under your skin, that just creeps you out a little bit? Is there nothing you will not lie about or justify?”
The answer is in the ruin that was Aleppo.