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Monday, December 19, 2016

Aleppo and Cambodia

Frankly, when my husband and I visited Cambodia in 2011, we were both surprised when our guide explained the reason the evil Khmer Rouge gained such a stranglehold on the nation during their reign of terror, known as the "Killing Fields". She told us the massive slaughters of Cambodians by their own people, led by a cruel dictator named Po Pot (1925-1998), happened because the United States left Vietnam in chaos and the Khmer Rouge filled the void in Cambodia. This logic was beyond my understanding. Weren't the Cambodia people victimized by the leader Po Pot and his followers? I didn't think the Americans had much, if anything, to do with his murderous campaign.  
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Po Pot, leader of the Khmer Rouge (1925-1998)

Well, now CNN is reporting that the lack of US involvement in Syria has, likewise, led to a leadership vacuum in the Middle East and this resulted in the tragic fall of Aleppo.  

When the US steps back, terrible actors fill the void
Barack Obama became president vowing to extricate the United States from the Middle East. He tried to stay out of Syria and even sounded proud of it. His failure to act even after warning of a "red line" if Assad used chemical weapons -- which Assad has continued to do -- sent a signal to other powers that the field was open. The vacuum created by the US was quickly filled by Russia, Iran and Arab governments. Now, we see not only the calamity of Aleppo, but hundreds of thousands killed, millions of refugees in Europe, the rise of the extreme anti-immigrant right and the empowering of Russia and Iran. Obama's policy did not just fail. It allowed this worst-case scenario to materialize.

Huh? Well, these two logic scenarios just don't make any sense. Obviously, I'm not an international scholar, but in both tragedies, the carnage was caused by the nation's governments turning on its own people. Po Pot was Cambodian- he murdered millions of Cambodians. Similarly, President Assad, the evil leader of Syria, is murdering millions of his nation's citizens.

In both tragedies, the risk of intervening in Cambodia or, decades later, in  Syria, would have had the same consequences. In other words, to prevent both massacres, the weird logic called for Americans to be interventionists. When Cambodian people became victims of Po Pot, they had the power, by sheer numbers, to destroy the evil man. Eventually, the Vietnamese army intervened in Cambodia to end the carnage, but only one person was ever tried and executed for the Khmer Rouge terror. Unbelievably, even Po Pot died in a hospital, albeit under somewhat mysterious circumstances.  

In Syria, one man is responsible for the genocide of millions of his own people. Although Assad is propped up by Russian President Putin, the fact is, the 12.5 million displaced Syrians who are victims of this alliance had the capacity to overtake the power base in the capital, in Damascus.

Of course, I sincerely regret sounding like my intention is to somehow blame the innocent victims who were murdered by Po Pot in Cambodia and by Assad in Syria. That is certainly not the purpose of this blog. Rather, I'm failing to understand a logic whereby, both the guide who spoke to us in Cambodia and now the CNN pundit, are in agreement about how lack of American involvement contributed to two international genocides. 

Perhaps I'm conjuring up an image of waves of humans creating an avalanche of unified resistance to evil leaders, regardless of how many get massacred in the process. Yet, in both countries, in my opinion, the lack of populist opposition has caused exactly the same outcomes.

Moreover, potential American involvement in Cambodia post the end of the Vietnam War (or, as the Vietnamese call it "the War of American Aggression") would have contributed to even more casualties. In Syria, an American intervention would have involved our nation's military and probably even roused more support for terrorism from ISIS and other radical religious zealots.  

Therefore, I disagree with the CNN report about the vacuum created by lack of American involvement in Syria contributing to the fall of Aleppo.  

These are the facts: President Assad is responsible for the cruel destruction of his own, once beautiful, Syrian nation. In Cambodia, it was Po Pot who murdered his own people during the reign of the Khmer Rouge during the "Killing Fields". Two individual and mortal men who were both motivated by evil to destroy their own people.  Period.

In my logic, Americans had little, if anything, to do with either one.

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