“The rubble of Palmyra is a melancholy emblem of the rubble of American foreign policy”

America is no longer moved by the moral imperative of support and rescue, even when, as in Syria, it is plainly in its strategic interest. (I know, we rescued the Yazidis.) The 71 immigrants who were found dead in a truck on a Hungarian road, the corpse of a little boy that washed up on a Turkish beach, the hundreds of thousands of desperate people (out of 4 million) now making their way to Europe—these friendless people were killed or exiled in part by the Western refusal to face the horrors of Syria four years ago. All this was predicted. What did we think would happen if we did nothing?

Hold on. Indignation is getting the better of me. America did do something. We trained 54 Syrian soldiers for the “New Syrian Force,” nearly half of whom were killed or captured as soon as they went to work. We are running more than 350 Twitter accounts at the Department of State, which, according to the undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, are “aggregating, curating, and amplifying existing content.” We are flying drones to assassinate villains who are immediately replaced. In sum, it is springtime for ISIS. We present no serious obstacles and offer no significant impediments. We deplore and we respond trivially. We act, but not decisively. This is what the world looks like when the United States has abandoned its faith in its power and its duty to do good. For whom are we any longer a source of hope? The rubble of Palmyra is a melancholy emblem of the rubble of American foreign policy.

Leon Wieseltier, “The Rubble of Palmyra”, The Atlantic (4 September 2015) [http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/09/rubble-palmyra-syria-isis/403921/]