Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
Nicholas Kristof is absolutely correct in his column in today’s New York Times, that the Obama Administration has done virtually nothing to address the humanitarian crisis in Syria. He is correct to chastise the U.S. and the West for failing to facilitate the end to the horrible bloodletting. The problem is he is wringing his hands without providing any serious practical solutions.
His recommendations are all the generalities emanating from the U.N., international human rights organizations, and humanitarian groups. Providing rebel forces with support would be excellent, but, as he admits, who knows if these are the right rebels and what will they do with the equipment and intelligence? Does anyone truly sense who will gain power? Helping the wrong group could ultimately alienate more potential Syrian leaders than it would help and we ultimately could be blamed for everything that might go wrong with our assistance. Rebuilding after the war will not be offered to the U.S. as an option.
Kristof even mentions regional instability and coordinating activities with Turkey and, perhaps, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq, but what about to Israel? For Kristof, Israel seems to be a factor to help seal borders. Why not use this opportunity to get the Turks to bury the hatchet with Israel, in return for united efforts to control the future refugee problems, patrol for escaping rebels, have a unified intelligence operation, and provide for secure borders? Kristof does raise the problem of the WMD danger, but not nearly with the emphasis it requires. There is an implied assumption that the rebels will lock them up in a secure safe or destroy them! They represent the greatest danger to ending the conflict and stopping the internecine fighting in a post-Assad Syria.
Why not demand that the Saudis publically announce that they and the Gulf States are financing the materiel transfers to the rebels so that U.S., the West, Turkey, and even Israel do not need to do so and that they too can share the ultimate responsibility of interfering? Arabs may not want to fight Arabs, but therein rests the best motivation for America NOT to do anything.
To answer the Arabs’ query as to where the U.S. is in trying to end the human tragedy ought to come, where are the Arabs?