Top UN staff have asked for Assad and his top people to be tried for war crimes. And UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who likens the conflict to the Holocaust, cited a doctrine endorsed by the General Assembly in 2005 when he stated last month: “The ‘responsibility to protect’ applies everywhere and all the time.
That doctrine was President Obama’s rationale for the US intervention in Libya, an action that prevented the slaughter of many anti-Qaddafi people in Benghazi. He has also sent troops to Africa to help the hunt for Joseph Kony’s Lord's Resistance Army. But whatever the extent of the president’s humanitarian impulse, it remains overridden by other considerations.
Last spring, Obama clearly stated that “preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States of America.” But he qualified that “core” responsibility by adding: “That does not mean that we intervene militarily every time there’s an injustice in the world. We cannot and should not.”