Jeffrey Feltman and Hrair Balian recently argued in a piece on Responsible Statecraft for a new U.S. policy on Syria that would ostensibly be more humane and productive since it would calibrate Syria sanctions relief to changes in President Bashar al-Assad’s behaviour. This approach may appear to be an improvement on present sanctions policy, which is clearly not working and is causing immense civilian suffering throughout the country. But it could end up making things worse.
It’s important to grasp the moral enormity of this. Jeffrey did not stoop to deploying the standard cant about theoretical ‘humanitarian exemptions’ (which don’t work in practice) or about aiming only at Assad’s capacity to do harm. No, for him, the purpose of sanctions was and is to strangle the Syrian economy and if that should mean causing ordinary Syrians to queue for bread or gasoline for hours, or be unable to revive factories and recover jobs, or rebuild and re-equip hospitals, or import vitally needed medical goods… well that’s just collateral damage and it’s all for the greater good of pursuing U.S. interests.