ALEPPO – As another Christmas nears, the horrors of Aleppo have shown how far humanity remains from peace on Earth — and how it lacks the moral compass to show it the way.
What was once Syria’s biggest city fell to government forces last week, signalling a sinister turning point in a nearly six-year-old civil war that has left half a million dead and driven 4.8 million into exile.
While an unmitigated disaster for the people of Aleppo, its capture means Syrian dictator and mass-murderer Bashar Assad has won — not just the battle but the war.
His Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah militia enablers have emerged victorious, too.
In contrast, the United Nations, which has been impotent in stopping the bloodshed, has lost. So has the United States, which refused to back up its threats to Assad with action.
As for the various rebel forces that will continue to oppose Assad elsewhere, the loss of Aleppo proves resistance is futile. They’ve lost it all.
But the biggest losers are the ordinary Syrians who simply wanted freedom and began peacefully protesting to get it in early 2011.
More than 30,000 of them died in the siege of Aleppo, the victims of barrel-bombs, mortar shells, bullets and poison gas. Pro-government militia casually executed women and children, while men disappeared, presumably to internment camps.
It hurts to see the human suffering and misery captured in the photos and video footage coming from a city pounded into rubble.
Even more heartbreaking is listening to the pleas for help coming from the citizens of Aleppo, then admitting that the outside world heard, yet stood by and did nothing.
Humankind often takes pride in how far it has come, in how safe, how wonderful, how comfortable its science and machines have made everyday life. We talk glowingly of progress and we feel good.
There is no reason to feel anything, but collective shame when looking at Aleppo’s ruined buildings and lives. More than seven decades after the Second World War, the most destructive conflict in the sad annals of our species, and despite our best efforts, we have not found a way to peacefully settle violent disputes.
The United Nations is too feeble, too disunited to matter in places like Aleppo.
After costly interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, for which it was censured at home and abroad, the U.S. lacked the stomach for invading another Middle East country, or even using its air and sea power to make a difference.
Once, the Americans were praised as the world’s welcome police for ending the civil war that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia, and later stopping Serbia from persecuting rebellious Kosovars. After the disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003, that changed.
If anything, incoming U.S. president Donald Trump will be even more wary of foreign entanglements than his predecessor. America’s critics will cheer such isolationism.
Yet the tragedy of Aleppo shows that however messy and problematic American intervention may be in ending a conflict, we have not found a more humane and just alternative.
By John Roe | Hamilton Spectator