It’s appropriate that two of the leading liberal interventionists, both of whom have served in prominent positions in Barack Obama’s administration—are named Power and Slaughter.
Samantha Power, of course, is Obama’s ambassador to the United Nations, and a leading advocate of using American force overseas, especially when in her opinion civilian casualties can be exaggerated as “genocide.” And Anne-Marie Slaughter, long a foreign policy insider and currently head of the New America Foundation, served under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as director of policy planning at the State Department (2009–11). Back in 2011, Power and Slaughter joined Clinton and a handful of White House aides in supporting the US military action to topple Muammar Qaddafi, an action that turned that country into a warring mosaic of militias, terrorists and freelance warlords.
So it’s not surprising that in today’s New York Times, the influential Slaughter issues a clarion call for US military action in both Iraq and Syria. In the piece, “Don’t Fight in Iraq and Ignore Syria,” Slaughter asks what the United States can do about the twin crises, concluding that the answer “may well involve the use of force on a limited but immediate basis, in both countries.” And she says that the United States should ignore and go outside the United Nations if the UN Security Council won’t authorize action. Arrogantly, she says:
If nations like Russia and China block action for their own narrow interests, we should act multilaterally, as we did in Kosovo, and then seek the Council’s approval after the fact. The United Nations Charter was created for peace among the people of the world, not as an instrument of state power. This is not merely a humanitarian calculation. It is a strategic calculation. One that, if the president had been prepared to make it two years ago, could have stopped the carnage spreading today in Syria and in Iraq.
So, like the hawks and neoconservatives of the Republican party, Slaughter is blaming Obama for the crisis, since if he acted with force “two years ago” everything in Iraq and Syria would be dandy.
It’s certainly true, as I’ve argued in this space, that the wars in Syria and Iraq have become a single conflict. But the conflict is a regional one, pitting Saudi proxies and allies against Iranian ones, in a war that is both sectarian (Sunni vs. Shiite) and a geopolitical, state-vs.-state struggle for regional hegemony. But the solution is political and diplomatic, not military. (Indeed, in Syria the government of President Bashar al-Assad has turned the tide, and he’s winning that war, while in Iraq—after huge setbacks and shock in Baghdad, the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is likely to rally his sectarian Shiite base and recapture cities seized by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.)