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U.S. Opinions: Washington

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Talked to death

From an editorial Thursday in the Washington Post:

Five months have passed since Secretary of State John F. Kerry declared that “the world must act quickly” to stop a “war of starvation” being waged by the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad against “huge proportions of the population.” It’s been nearly six weeks since the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 2139, which ordered the regime and rebels to “promptly allow unhindered humanitarian access.”

Since then, according to U.N. humanitarian coordinator Valerie Amos, the war of starvation has worsened. The number of Syrians cut off from international aid has grown since January by 1 million, to 3.5 million. At least 180,000 people are in areas directly blockaded by government troops, which refuse to allow in supplies.

No, the United States can’t force action by the Security Council, where Russia, Assad’s ally, has a veto. But the Obama administration is not lacking in options to stop the ongoing, horrific crimes against humanity in Syria. What it lacks is the will to act. It could order the Assad regime to authorize border crossings by aid convoys – something Ms. Power said would require only “a stroke of the pen” – or face the same airstrikes Mr. Obama threatened last summer. It could target blockade points with drone or missile strikes. It could provide rebels with the air defense weapons they need to stop helicopters from dropping barrel bombs on civilian housing, hospitals and schools.

The administration appears content to listen to “harrowing” reports from U.N. monitors, deliver angry statements and then throw up their hands because of their inability to win the cooperation of Vladimir Putin. It’s not a performance that will be judged well when historians consider why the world’s foremost power failed to stop this mass slaughter.

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