“As it happens, the carnage in Syria throws up a dilemma that reaches beyond the familiar cynical choices between realism and idealism. Western leaders share international outrage at the wanton killing of civilians by Mr Assad’s regime. They want to see him removed from office. But to suggest that there is an easy option by way of military intervention is to abandon intelligent analysis to understandable anger.
Syria is not Libya. Mr Assad’s military is armed with sophisticated Russian weaponry and large stocks of chemical weapons. Would bombing save Syrian lives? I suspect that the combination of the particularly brutal killings in Houla and Russian intransigence at the UN will eventually push the west into arming the insurgents. But no one should suppose that this will bring a happy ending.
Confronted with charges of double standards, western policy makers tend to shrug their shoulders and reply this is the world as it is. As far as, say, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are concerned, they will take the criticism on the chin. What the realpolitik misses, I think, is the deeply corrosive effect of the accumulated hypocrisies on the west’s standing and influence.”