NEW YORK – As Syria has descended into all-out civil war, much of the worsening slaughter has been attributable to aerial bombardments of urban neighborhoods that President Bashar al-Assad’s opponents control, with such attacks causing especially high casualties in recent weeks in the ancient city of Aleppo. Can anything be done to stop the killing?
There are many good reasons not to intervene militarily. For one thing, it would be impossible to do so under the auspices of the United Nations, owing to Russian and Chinese obstructionism in the Security Council. There is also America’s understandable reluctance to become involved in yet another war in an Islamic country, as well as the impossibility of knowing what kind of regime might emerge if and when Assad is overthrown.
Yet it also seems impossible to stand by while the daily bloodbath continues. The situation in Syria feels more and more like what we witnessed in Bosnia 20 years ago. Then, as now, the international community’s main response for an extended period was to provide humanitarian assistance to the conflict’s growing number of victims.
Thanks to satellite television, the world had a front-row seat to watch the citizens of Sarajevo, who were kept alive by UN food deliveries, being killed by shelling and sniping from the surrounding hills. Today, the UN is delivering an increasing amount of assistance to Syrian refugees who have managed to escape to neighboring countries, while those who have not are being slaughtered.