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Thursday, September 22, 2016

US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power has denounced the "point-scoring" of the Russians about Syria.

Fair point. But tell it to those dying at this very moment in Aleppo and elsewhere.

Her boss, Barack Obama, makes another point. He asks, what could he have done differently in Syria? He says the question "haunts" him -- as though it's the first time anyone has asked it. 

Talleyrand remembers different. There was more at stake than a speculation about how many people might have been killed in Benghazi; more than whether Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron were owed a favour or two in agreeing to this gratuitous intervention; more than whether it was worth humiliating the Russians (again) at the UN for supporting a Western initiative; more, even, than whether it was worth risking Hillary Clinton's resignation as Secretary of State, which she threatened so as to give herself just one "foreign policy achievement," which she later summarised (cheerfully) as, "we came, we saw, he died."

No, what was at stake--which was hardly mysterious back in 2011--was whether the Arab Spring would continue largely peacefully, or whether it would be militarised, and whether the world's major powers could muster the will to come together in order to nip a much larger, and far more menacing, conflict in the bud in Syria.

The Libya adventure settled it in the negative; the subsequent breakdown of diplomacy among the Western powers (and between them and Russia), the dismal performance of NATO during and after the adventure, the blindingly superficial and amateurish quality of diplomacy at the UN, (starting with Ms Power and her predecessor, Ms Rice) and the emergence of a predictable and predicted multinational proxy war, should give the American president some things to think about. Or he could just as well go back and read the advice that was given to him, advice he rejected so that he could score on "the right side of history."

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