In Syria, armed thugs (with tanks) went house-to-house in a village and murdered all inhabitants, down to babies with pacifiers in their mouths. In history, this sort of pogrom happened (minus the tanks) in many wars of antiquity (revisit The Trojan War), in which the victors killed every male down to babies and hauled all females into slavery.
During the Middle Ages, a Crusade was declared against two dissident religious groups in southern France, the Albigensians and Cathars. The Catholic victors went through each village, killing all but one person whom they then sent down the road to the next village.
In 19th century Poland, Easter Sunday pogroms sent drunken peasants to murder all the Jews they could find in their villages. The Nazis took up the same practice, using recently conquered locals in Eastern Europe to round up and murder all Jews. Ukraine's Baba Yar was a notorious example of this campaign, with ditches filled with hundreds of Jewish families.
During the breakup of Yugoslavia, Serbs set out to destroy the Muslims living there. For the first time since World War II, we saw death camps in Europe; prisoners showing the photographers their emaciated ribs, and aid workers reporting on deliberate rape camps.
In Rwanda, former neighbors (majority tribe) went after the minority tribe with machetes recently ordered from China for this purpose. The news got out but nobody did anything.
And therein lies the problem. We are established as nation states in today's world, and there is reluctance to intervene, even when one of those nation states is an outlaw. We ignored the events in Rwanda because nobody in the west had an economic or political interest there. We ignored the Serbian massacres because we had no direct interest, but the Russians did-thereby delaying any rescue. It took our first woman Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, to shame the administration's men into responding. America's bombing campaign of Serbia did the trick. The Serbs surrendered, sent their monster President to the World Court for trial, and rejoined the civilized world.
Now we face the problem of Syria. The UN has already sent observers (observers with no guns cannot do much). CNN has bold reporters risking their lives to document what has been going on in Syria, but we are told by the Syrian government not to believe our own eyes. The slaughters and pogroms, they say, are caused by “terrorists.” Indeed so, government terrorist thugs with heavy armor and ammunition, something that even Islamist terrorists do not yet have.
The Russians and the Chinese veto any attempt to deal with the rogue governments in the Middle East (Syria, Iran, and formerly Libya), for very understandable reasons. They don't want any world body messing with their own terrorism against their dissident populations; and they do not want their arms deals with these rogues challenged.
The US is understandably tired of the cost in lives and treasure of intervening in the Middle East. We have been too long in Iraq and Afghanistan, with little to show for it. Medieval Muslim countries are not amenable to the modern rule of law and the institutions that sustain participatory governance.
However, there is the model of intervention we used in Libya, air power providing a safe region for dissidents and encouragement of neighboring countries to provide a sanctuary for civilians fleeing genocide. This can give dissidents heart to overturn a savage dictator. Perhaps we should be doing this as humane global citizens.
What we should not expect, however, is that these revolutionary states will replace the monster with somebody decent. Their cultures are not sufficiently removed from ethnic and sectarian passions. With a dictator removed, majority sects will go after minorities with a vengeance. To mitigate this, we in the West must provide sanctuary to these minorities. They will survive only if they leave. Many Christian Arabs already know this.
America must lead in these efforts because nobody else will. But we need no longer bear the entire cost. We do have partners. They just need a leader.
Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of Worldchangers: Ten Inventions that Changed Everything. You may contact her at Lfarhat102@aol.com or www.globalthink.net.