Thursday, 22 December 2016


Attempts to achieve peace through inaction are bound to fail. Just ask the people of Aleppo. Attempts to achieve peace through appeasement are bound to fail. Just ask Neville Chamberlain. Peace only comes from assertive action that destroys a rampaging enemy’s will to survive. Just ask Winston Churchill.

World War Two should have taught us that. Doing nothing in the face of an Assad-inflicted genocide - supported by Iran and Russia – has shown us where inaction leads.

Obama’s legacy to live up to the vain philosophy of the Nobel Peace Prize panel lies in the ashes of Aleppo.

Obama’s dereliction of his international and humanitarian responsibilities by failing to implement his infamous “red lines” warning made a mockery of the Nobel Peace Prize. His non-violent policy and impotence to act decisively to save lives gave the green light to the resultant Syrian genocide.  

It follows in the awful tradition of Ruanda, Darfur, Sudan. Collectively it shows us that only force against evil-doers will protect innocent lives against acts of unchallenged heinous massacre.

When good men of influence do nothing but complain evil triumphs.  Obama was a complainer, not a doer.

In the summer of 2013, John Kerry called Assad’s early chemical attacks on his citizens “a moral obscenity” for which there needed to be “accountability.”  We have yet to hear from the accountants as the death toll reaches half a million souls.

The world was watching and waiting as Obama did nothing. Was he burdened by the weight of his Oslo peace medal, or was he an eager proponent of “doing nothing brings peace”? Either way, the lofty goal of peace does not come without action or sacrifice.

The Middle East remains the same Middle East as it was before the misnamed “Arab Spring.” Powerful dictators retain their seats of power. Erdogan, Assad, Sisi, the Ibn Sauds, the Mullahs in Tehran. Al-Qaida has been outmatched by the more lethal ISIS, another hideous apparition that was dismissed and untouched by Obama.

To stay alive in this bloodbath of a region one must remain strong, tough and vigilant. Appeasement is not an option. It is perceived as weakness and the weak are devoured by the predators of which there are many, hunting alone or in packs for their prey.

To intolerant regimes with global agendas, extending an olive branch is a joke. Realism, sharp awareness of the reality of the neighbourhood, a clear-eyed identification of the players and their ambitions is required. This, not the faulty pretence of viewing a virtual utopian world, is the only strategy to navigate the dangerous course to calmer waters.

So, although Obama, in his final days, tells whoever cares to listen that Russia is the evil enemy. Putin is no Mr. Nice-Guy but neither was Josef Stalin. He killed more people than Hitler but that didn’t stop Roosevelt and Churchill from collaborating with this bloody dictator in the war against Nazi Germany.

Israel is an example of the application of pragmatic politics. It has collaborated with Moscow in its national security needs. Recently it has taken essential military actions against selected targets within Syria. Israel is well aware that Moscow controls Assad’s territory. There is an operational agreement borne out of a number of high profile meetings between Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu and Russian leader Putin and lower level coordination between the two sides that allows Israel to take out and destroy sophisticated weaponry supplied by Iran via the Syrian regime to Lebanese Islamic Hezbollah that could be used in potential future attacks against the Jewish State.  The silence from Russia to these Israeli attacks is significant.

With Assad regaining territory strengthening his once teetering grip on power it seems increasingly certain that no one is going to remove this Syrian dictator. Obama had the chance and blew it.

Assad, for all his faults, never seriously threatened Israel. Under a Trump presidency, the possibility opens up to coordinate with Putin over a future Syria in which the Russians will continue to protect Assad, but also coordinate with America and operate jointly to defeat ISIS, persuade the Iranians to withdraw their Hezbollah proxies so as not to threaten Israel from the Golan Heights, and to dedicate safe zones in which Syrian refugees can be returned, housed and fed until it becomes possible for them to be more permanently housed. 

This could be a joint Russian-American led operation with the funding coming from the surrounding Arab states and supervised by United Nations agencies. 

In other words, the noble purpose of the Nobel Peace Prize will be revived through affirmative, even military, action.

Barry Shaw,
Senior Associate for Public Diplomacy,
Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.

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