Aleppo Syria George Ourfalian/Stringer

De ontnuchterende lessen van Aleppo

NEW YORK – De val van Aleppo voor strijdkrachten die loyaal zijn aan de Syrische president Bashar al-Assad is noch het einde van het begin, noch het begin van het einde van de vijf-en-een-half jaar durende burgeroorlog in Syrië – een oorlog die ook een oorlog is die door buitenlandse hulptroepen wordt uitgevochten, evenals een regionaal conflict en in zekere mate zelfs een mondiaal conflict. De volgende grote slag zal plaatsvinden in de provincie Idlib; de enige vraag is wanneer. En zelfs daarna zal de oorlog blijven dooretteren in diverse delen van wat een verdeeld land zal blijven.

Hoe dan ook is het een goede tijd om de stand van zaken op te maken en ons te richten op wat we hebben geleerd, al is het maar om daarvan te leren. Er is weinig in de geschiedenis dat onvermijdelijk is, en de uitkomst in Syrië is het resultaat van wat overheden, groepen en individuen hebben gekozen te doen – en niet te doen. Dat laatste is in Syrië net zo gewichtig gebleken als wél iets doen.

Op geen enkel moment was dit duidelijker dan toen de Verenigde Staten hun dreigement niet waarmaakten om de regering-Assad te laten boeten voor haar gebruik van chemische wapens. Dat bleek een gemiste kans te zijn, niet alleen om het momentum van het conflict te veranderen, maar ook om het principe te onderstrepen dat ieder regime dat massavernietigingswapens inzet daar spijt van zal krijgen. Afdwinging is immers essentieel voor de effectiviteit van toekomstige afschrikking.

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