Danny Postel is the Associate Director at the Center for Middle East Studies, University of Denver.  Postel co-edited The Syria Dilemma with Nader Hashemi who spoke at the Committee on Global Thought’s panel discussion titled “The Syria Dilemma: A Critical Dialogue.”  Read more about the event here.

Syria, Russia and What Can Be Done: Some Questions for Bob Dreyfuss

By Danny Postel – February 24, 2014

The Nation

In his February 11 post “A Bad Idea: Using Military Force to Aid Syria’s Population,” Nation blogger Bob Dreyfuss inaccurately implies that in our February 10 New York Times op-ed on Syria, Nader Hashemi and I advocated US military intervention. Dreyfuss writes: “Both the local cease-fire hopes and the chemical arms transfers might be upset or destroyed if the United States barged into Syria with guns to deliver aid.

But in fact we called for no such thing. Read the piece. Nowhere in it did we call for US intervention. What we called for is a United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force for the specific and very limited purpose of getting food and medicine to starving Syrian civilians trapped in the country’s besieged areas.

We noted that Russia vetoed three UN Security Council resolutions on Syria—resolutions that did not call for the use of force—and has said it would support measures on humanitarian issues only if Assad agrees to them. (The Security Council’s unanimous approval over the weekend of a resolution on humanitarian access is of course a most welcome development, one I’ll return to shortly.)

Dreyfuss raises no objections at all to Moscow’s pattern of obstructionism on the humanitarian front. If Assad insists on maintaining the kneel or starve sieges that threaten to kill hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians—which the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has called a war crime—Russia has his back, and Dreyfuss is all right with that.

Because Moscow has blocked multiple humanitarian measures on Syria, Hashemi and I proposed that an ensemble of countries invoke the Responsibility to Protect principle in the (likely) event of yet another Russian veto. Nowhere in the piece did we call for the United States to intervene. We call for a multinational force. We mentioned signs of French interest in this course of action. The only other countries that seemed to be thinking along these lines were Australia, Jordan and Luxembourg. Yet Dreyfuss implies that we argued for the United States to “barge” into Syria.

This isn’t just sloppy—though it certainly is that. It reflects a myopic, US-centric tunnel vision in which everything comes back to the United States. This monochrome “anti-imperialism” is in fact an inverted form of imperialism.

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