In his address to the nation on Tuesday night, President Barack Obama spoke of the need for the left to reconcile its "belief in freedom and dignity" with "those images of children writhing in pain" in Syria. We will have many more opportunities to watch the innocent suffer in the years to come.
It is worth remembering that, for all the president's enthusiasm for a peaceful solution in Syria, there is no peace in that land. The likely price of the president's Russian reprieve is that Bashar Assad will remain in power. So far, over 110,000 people have been killed. That massacre will continue.
Behind those tragic headlines, another massacre is in progress. The religious minorities of the Middle East are being cleansed away. These communities, including Christian and Jewish ones, are old beyond the imagining of Americans. Our nation is barely two centuries old. The Copts of Egypt -- historically, one of the three great centers of Christianity -- are 20 centuries old.
As the known repression of Hosni Mubarak was replaced by the unpredictable savagery of the Muslim Brotherhood, these Coptic Christians fled their homeland. The Egyptian army's return to power is no solution, for thousands of local vendettas -- and the army's weakness -- ensure that pogroms will continue.
The Jews have always been the canaries in the coal mine. In 1948, 150,000 Jews lived in Iraq. By 2004, there were only about 35 left in Baghdad. What happened to Iraq's Jews is happening across the Middle East, to all the minorities. Syria is at least 10 percent Christian, with sizable groups of Alawites and other sects.
Syria's President Assad is an Alawite. He is also a murderer. But it is part of the Syrian tragedy that no outcome, even a victory by the Alawite coalition, will save the innocent. If Assad wins -- at the cost of much blood -- Syria will still experience the local pogroms of Egypt. Religious cleansing led President Bill Clinton to intervene in Kosovo in 1999, but the Middle Eastern problem is incalculably more intractable.
The answer to this problem does not start with our Air Force or with a deal with the Russians. The place to start is to recognize that, outside the West, rapid change in societies is not likely to be peaceful. But the United States can play a role in keeping anarchy at bay and encouraging regimes to do a little better.
To do that, we have to be willing to exert some political pressure on friendly authoritarians, and more pressure on hostile ones. To his credit, President George W. Bush did that in Egypt, where the late Mubarak years were good ones for the Copts. But under Obama, we have lost all consistency, declaring Assad a reformer and backing the regime of the day in Egypt.
The Middle East isn't the only region that has massacres. Another is under way in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the United States and the United Nations back a feckless regime led by Joseph Kabila against an array of guerrilla groups. The cost to the U.S. taxpayer runs to hundreds of millions and, again, our willingness to Support Kabila no matter how corrupt and inept he is guarantees the killing will continue.
Of all the massacres on the horizon, the worst will be in Afghanistan. Obama claims that when we depart the battlefield in 2014, we will bring the war to "a responsible end." No, we will not. We will be giving up the main part of our power to shape events, and other actors in Afghanistan will realign accordingly. By leaving now, we are giving way to anarchy.
The Taliban will return, and they will take vengeance. Today, you can easily find savage videos of Taliban atrocities online. When they are back in power, they will be worse. And when they execute people for the crime of being friendly to the United States, we should remember that -- as across the Middle East -- we had the power to make a difference. We just chose not to use it.
Ted R. Bromund is a senior research fellow in The Heritage Foundation's Thatcher Center for Freedom.