In the past, chemical weapons have been used in far-off villages in Iraq and other remote places, and even on the outskirts of the Syrian civil war currently underway. But nothing like this: More than 1,000 casualties in one maniacal act of murderous insanity in the suburbs of Damascus. And the enlightened world looks on, hears the cries, and nothing happens.
Well, not exactly. The U.N. did convene. The U.N. will convene again. The White House and the U.S. State Department will peek at the documents placed in front of them and read out, word for word, a toothless declaration about the shock that has gripped the biggest superpower in the world.
Anyone who has ever worked as a journalist in Washington knows that moment when the spokesman is not really shocked, or happy for that matter. He is simply reading out the boss's statement, as is, and is not deviating from the text. Coldly, indifferently, even cynically.
But the murder of 1,000 Syrians at the hands of their leader, Syrian President Bashar Assad, deviates from the norm to which the world has grown accustomed. And worse than that, unless someone in the U.S., or the West, puts an end to this madness, it will soon become legitimate. The world will accept that in a central Middle Eastern country, chemical weapons have become acceptable. Next time it will be easier for Assad. By the third time, the headlines reporting on a chemical attack will be pushed to the back pages of the papers, or disappear entirely.
The important thing is that Assad will realize that there is no atrocity that he can commit that will deter Russia and Iran from clinging to their own interests, or prompt U.S. President Barack Obama to focus America's foreign policy in a way that could pose a threat. The U.S. is in constant retreat, and sometimes it gives the impression that it has decided to commit diplomatic suicide on every scale, especially in the Middle East.
This is total madness. Assad is massacring his people and going unpunished, while Egyptian Defense Minister Col. Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi is being slapped with an American and European arms embargo just for choosing to defend some kind of Egyptian sanity in the face of groups that are blacker than black.
Who is to blame? Israel, of course. Not just in the Arab media, but also in the best of the liberal, East Coast newspapers. New York is not happy with Israel's cooperation with Sissi, and the state's media outlets are condemning the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, of course. (Where is J Street? Don't they claim to be pro-Israel too?)
When the 2013 archives are opened, many years from now, it will emerge that some of Israel's allies in the Middle East were actively looking to rest on Israel as a kind of Archimedean focal point, to provide protection that America was failing to provide.
At the end of the day, with or without the peace talks with the Palestinians, there is no escaping the very mundane, boring conclusion, that we, as Jews, have been reciting for years: There is no substitute for the Iron Wall.