President Obama likes to think of himself as a “foreign policy president.” Yet, in his most important foreign policy decision he exposed himself a president who refused to take the hard leadership needed to prevent mass atrocities and genocide; the “cornerstone” foreign policy he himself established. When a president fails to uphold his own foreign policy, Mitt Romney is correct to call attention. If only Romney had done so sooner.
This past April President Obama declared the prevention of mass atrocities and genocide as America’s core national security interest and moral responsibility. Syrian children, as young as two years old, were already suffering rape, detention, torture, murder and use as human shields; a documented Assad State military strategy. Section (e) of the Genocide Convention defines the forced transfer of children. The Genocide Convention has been met in Syria on Section (e) alone.
Declaring foreign policies that America has no intention of enforcing destroys American integrity and credibility. Who could trust a president who establishes a “corner-stone” foreign policy and then immediately refuses to uphold it? America cannot afford this kind of leadership. Not now. Not ever. Finally, Mitt Romney has said so. Mitt what took you so long?
Of all the excellent war reporting coming from Syria, of all the twitter pictures and YouTube videos uploaded by brave young men and women fighting for their freedom agaisnt a genocidal state, nothing has chilled me more than the words of one young Syrian woman who said to an NPR journalist, “When we control Syria, we won’t forget that you forgot us.” This is the definition of a massive foreign policy failure on Syria by President Obama.
A U.S.-led NATO intervention could have resulted, and still might although that window is closing fast, in a new Syrian state that would have been an American ally brimming, for generations to come, with gratitude for America’s “cornerstone” foreign policy of preventing mass atrocities and genocide; as is our moral obligation and critical national security interest.
Instead, thanks entire to President Obama’s abdication of foreign policy leadership in Syria, America may now face the exact opposite. Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King said we remember the silence of our friends far more than the words of our enemies. President Obama’s silence on Syria is a danger America cannot afford. Finally, Mitt Romney may have broken that silence and it may win him the White House.
Handrahan is a professor at American University’s School of International Service in Washington D.C.