Responsibility to Protect
An enduring lesson from the Rwandan genocide -- not unlike the Holocaust -- is that it occurred not only because of the machinery of death, but because of state-sanctioned incitement to hate and genocide. Indeed, as the Supreme Court of Canada recognized, and as echoed by the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda, the Holocaust did not begin in the gas chambers -- it began with words. As the jurisprudence of the Rwandan tribunals demonstrates, these acts of genocide were preceded by -- and anchored in -- the state-orchestrated demonization and dehumanization of the minority Tutsi populations.
We can now admit the truth: the Syrian refugees are on their own. So let's stop pretending. The two million refugees have fled to neighbouring countries, and some four million remain internally displaced. The numbers are simply staggering -- the largest since the Rwandan crisis of the early 1990s. We shouldn't be surprised. Our belief in politics is at an all-time low, as is voter turnout in many countries. We seem frozen in time when it comes to troubling developments such as climate change or the rapid widening gap between the rich and the poor. Democracy seems incapable at the moment of meeting its most serious challenges.
People worldwide can be forgiven for their sense of bewilderment at the constant back and forth between military and diplomatic solutions to the crisis in Syria. We've now been at this long enough for commentators to reverse their positions depending on the most recent developments. But there is one group -- a huge one -- for whom none of this really matters: refugees.
It remains a difficult thing for Canadians to embrace when hearing little concerning the injustices of the governments of such regions as Syria. Certain voices indeed have been raised from within the Muslim/Arab communities, but the lack of overall response until it is too late remains a mystery. But is that enough to refuse any kind of intervention? Clearly not.
Recently, I was approached to give an interview by a rather right-leaning foreign news program. It may be no surprise, but our visions did not fit together. The news show, however, sent me a list of questions about the future of Syria, the Assad regime, and the prospects of the newly unified Syrian opposition. Here are my answers.
What is needed is a total quarantine of Syria -- global travel bans and asset freezes, a complete arms embargo, and utter diplomatic isolation and condemnation. The Syrian political and army leadership must be put on notice that they will be held accountable for their international criminality.
Is this really all we've got? In 10 months no one has come up with a better plan than evadable sanctions, toothless Arab League monitors and a Barbara Walters special? How much longer will we wait before moved to action by the humanitarian ideals that brought liberation to Libya?
We have seen such coordination in times of open war, responses to cross-border aggression, and need for territorial defence. But this was different. Neither Egypt nor Libya was attacking anyone else -- this time it was what they were doing to their own people that prompted international action.
Canada charged into a military mission with no guarantee about which of our enemies might ultimately run Libya as a base targeting Canadians. Muslim Brotherhood? Al-Qaeda? Iran? Sudan? Some combination? And to reinforce the risks, we supported international funding of Libya's new jumble of leadership, a leadership that is proving sympathetic to Sharia impositions.