Aaron David Miller: Syria Is Not Obama's Rwanda





Aaron David Miller is vice president for current initiatives at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and has advised Democratic and Republican secretaries of state on the Middle East. His books include the forthcoming Can America Have Another Great President?

Who lost Syria? Comments of some U.S. senators, analysts and journalists, including the editorial board of this newspaper, suggest there is no doubt: Bashar al-Assad and his thugocracy are primarily responsible for the killings, but the tragedy of Syria is also a direct result of a terrible failure of leadership on the part of the international community, and of the United States in particular.

Syria, it is charged, is Barack Obama’s Rwanda.

Don’t believe it.

The idea that Syria was anyone’s to win or lose, or that the United States could significantly shape the outcome there, is typical of the arrogant paternalism and flawed analysis that have gotten this country into heaps of trouble in the Middle East over the years.

One of the virtues of the Arab Spring/Winter is that Arab people came to own their politics — for better or worse. This sense of ownership was often painful to watch — democracy isn’t always liberal — but it brought authority and legitimacy to the political turbulence roiling that region since late 2010. That made change real and home-grown. The United States and Israel were not central to the myths, tropes and narratives of these historic changes, nor should they be.

Some have argued for intervention by attempting to draw a parallel to Libya: We helped the rebels bring down Moammar Gaddafi, this thinking goes. Why not do the same in Syria?

Three interconnected realities provide the answer...




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