After a year of bloodshed, the crisis in Syria has reached a decisive moment. It is estimated that more than 7,500 lives have been lost. The United Nations has declared that Syrian security forces are guilty of crimes against humanity, including the indiscriminate shelling of civilians, the execution of defectors, and the widespread torture of prisoners. Bashar Al-Assad is now doing to Homs what his father did to Hama. Aerial photographs procured by Human Rights Watch show a city that has been laid to waste by Assad’s tanks and artillery.
When interests meet ideals in the arena of states, ideals lose out. How shall we count the ways? In recent times, there were Somalia, Rwanda and Darfur—the massacres and the ethnic cleansing dwarfing anything happening in Syria or, last summer, in Libya. In more ancient history, the world allowed Japan to grab Manchuria and wipe out Nanking. Mussolini used poison gas to conquer Abyssinia while the League of Nations postured and then fell apart. The U.S. wouldn't even bomb the train tracks to Auschwitz, the reasons put forward being: We need the ordinance for the war against the Germans.
This is a contribution to ‘What Should the United States Do About Syria?: A TNR Symposium.’ Let there be no doubt: With 6,000 dead and more than 50,000 displaced, the crisis in Syria has reached the point of no return, and the people of Syria are begging for help. We Syrians had hoped that the international community could cooperate in helping lift us from the daily terror we live in, but with the Security Council in stalemate, it is hard not to feel abandoned by it.
Today, state media in Tehran declared a halt to oil exports to six European countries, apparently in retaliation for recent EU measures aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program. (A conflicting statement from the country’s oil ministry, however, is creating confusion about whether the export cutoff will actually occur.) If the oil stoppage goes forward, what impact will it have on Europe? Information from the Congressional Research Service suggests that the move’s impact would vary considerably from country to country.
Last week marked the sixtieth anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the British throne. The government has already declared a four day public holiday in June, during which Her Majesty will lead a flotilla of a thousand boats along the Thames and a chain of fiery beacons will be lit across the United Kingdom. For a country in recession and at conflict with the European Union over its right to govern its own finances, this offers us a unique opportunity to reassert confidence and historical identity.
[Guest post by Nathan Pippenger] Jim Manzi, a sharp writer with whom I frequently disagree, has a post up at National Review that made me do a double-take. It’s about income inequality—and it’s hardly a persuasive argument. Manzi, who lives in Europe, admits that income inequality is “a symptom of deep problems,” but he bristles at “the cartoon of ‘Europe equal, America unequal.’” Now, I’ve done a lot of reading about income inequality—more, I think it’s fair to say, than even most wonks (I helped TNR’s Tim Noah with his excellent upcoming book).
Though the continent's collected prime ministers will no doubt again pledge to do all that's within their powers to preserve the grandeur of the European Union when they meet today in Brussels, the continent's fate ultimately rests on the quiet, technocratic governments of Italy and Greece. Unfortunately, those administrations have since seen their fortunes diverge considerably. It’s worth noting, however, that their respective failures and successes have been entirely predictable (if not entirely preventable.) Take Italy first.
Sovereign Equality and Moral Disagreement By Brad R. Roth (Oxford University Press, 320 pp., $70) Sovereignty is back. Our debates about the global economic crisis keep returning to the problem of sovereign debt and the need for sovereign guarantees to reassure the markets. We keep hoping that somewhere, sometime, in the downward spiral of de-leveraging and disillusion there will be an authority—a sovereign—to take charge and put an end to our anxiety. This longing for an authority, after years of market follies, runs very deep. We want to know that someone is in control.
A group of U.S. air carriers lost a lawsuit today at the European Court of Justice, which ruled that they must pay for their carbon emissions under a European Union cap-and-trade program. This particular program, which goes into effect at the start of next year, is part of broader EU efforts to control emissions with a cap-and-trade system.