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Children peer from a partially destroyed home, Aleppo, Syria, Feb. 11, 2016 (Komsomolskaya Pravda photo by Alexander Kots).

Can the U.S. Afford the Cost of Inaction in Aleppo?

Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016

Should the United States use military means to try to stop Syrian and Russian forces from massacring the civilian population of Aleppo? If the answer to that question is no, then what level of atrocity is the U.S., and the world, willing to tolerate in Syria—and elsewhere—before intervening? The questions in isolation are relatively straightforward to answer. But when we consider them in tandem, the answers become mutually incompatible. This is the crux of the tragedy of the Syrian civil war for those not condemned to suffer its terrible consequences directly.

At first glance, the case for intervening on humanitarian grounds to stop the indiscriminate Syrian and Russian assault on Aleppo’s rebel-held neighborhoods seems irrefutable. Writing in WPR last week, Frederick Deknatel catalogued the horrors taking place, which include the leveling of whole swathes of the city, with no regard for civilian inhabitants, and the targeting of hospitals and humanitarian workers treating the wounded. The “forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, backed by Russian jets, have attempted to retake the rebel-controlled eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo with unusually brutal force, even for this war,” he wrote. As a result, “the gap between American policy goals and the reality in Syria widens.” ...

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