America’s retreat and the agony of Aleppo

Roger Cohen writes: Sarajevo and Aleppo, two cities once part of the Ottoman Empire, two cities whose diverse populations have included Muslims and Christians and Jews, two cities rich in culture that have been besieged and split in two and ravaged by violence, two cities where children have been victims — 20 years apart.

What a difference two decades make! Sarajevo was headline news through much of its 44-month encirclement. NATO planes patrolled the skies to prevent, at least, aerial bombardment of the population. Blue-helmeted United Nations forces were deployed in a flawed relief effort. President Bill Clinton, after long hesitation, authorized the NATO airstrikes that led to the lifting of the Serbian siege and an imperfect peace in Bosnia. Belated American intervention worked.

Aleppo lacks such urgency. It’s bombarded: What else is new? How often does the word “Aleppo” fall from President Obama’s lips (or indeed the lesson-freighted word “Sarajevo”)? At which dinner parties in London, Paris, Berlin or Washington is it discussed? Which Western journalists are able to be there to chronicle day after day their outrage at a city’s dismemberment? Who recalls that just six years ago Aleppo was being talked about in Europe as the new Marrakesh, a place to buy a vacation home?

Aleppo is alone, alone beneath the bombs of Russian and Syrian jets, alone to face the violent whims of President Vladimir Putin and President Bashar al-Assad.

Oh, yes, I know, when the photograph of a child like Omran Daqneesh is seen, as it was this month, covered in blood after being dug from the rubble of Aleppo, the image may go viral just long enough for people to lament the Syrian debacle. Lament and forget. There’s Donald Trump to think about. Forget the more than 400,000 dead, the more than 4.8 million refugees, and the destruction of a city like Aleppo that is an expression of millennia of civilization. [Continue reading…]

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