Aleppo has fallen. And much of the West is awash in a considerable amount of guilt over the Syrian city’s fate.
The Eiffel Tower was dark yesterday in honor of the victims of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Aleppo. In Britain’s House of Commons, ministers grandly accused themselves of their own inaction. George Osborne, a conservative MP, said that there was “some hope for what might come out from this terrible tragedy in Syria, which is that we are beginning to learn the price of not intervening.”
The horror in Aleppo is easy to mourn, because the West is now so thoroughly not in a position to do anything to halt it, or to end the regime that inflicts it. Watchers in the West no longer have to consider the fact that preventing the horrifying situation in Aleppo would have meant creating many more horrifying scenes in Damascus with our own bombs and artillery, as the West fought a hugely costly war with the Syrian regime.
Decrying Aleppo’s fall is a freebie. We don’t have to consider who would have inherited a Western victory over Assad. As of two weeks ago, perhaps 8,000 to 10,000 rebel fighters were holed up under the constant weeks-long shelling of Aleppo. The majority of them were affiliated with al Qaeda’s Syria branches. Aleppo has its share of civilians who are sympathetic to the rebels and mortally terrified and imperiled by Assad’s regime. But those who escaped Aleppo earlier this year say that many other civilians are kept there as human shields and propaganda for the al Qaeda fighters who held the city.
The final siege of Aleppo is almost a shocking replay of the 1982 Hama massacre, committed by Hafez al-Assad, in which the Syrian militarily routed the opposition led by the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Now, as then, Sunni Islamist forces were crushed to secure the long term survival of the Assad dynasty.
Osborne and interventionists in the U.S. should not learn the wrong lesson from Aleppo’s fall. There was never a good plan from the West. The Spectator‘s Freddy Gray described the interventionists’ 2013 thinking, and it is not flattering: “Bomb first, think later seemed to be the strategy, just as it was in Libya — and look how well that turned out.” Intervention in Syria was fantastically unpopular in Britain and America. That’s why the House of Commons, and later the U.S. Congress, ended up voting against it.
Read the rest at The Week.