The ancient tragedy John Kerry used to explain Syria


In a Wednesday session on Syria at the United Nations Security Council, U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry deployed a curious historical reference.

“Those who believe this crisis couldn’t get worse are dead wrong, as are those who believe that a military victory is possible,” Kerry intoned at the special session, after urging a cessation of hostilities.

“This could be like Carthage with the Romans, if you call that a victory,” he said, referring to the conquest and devastation of the ancient city in what’s now Tunisia by Roman forces in the 2nd century B.C.

Kerry was aiming his analogy as a rebuke to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which remainsconvinced of its ability to win a decisive military victory against the constellation of rebel factions and militant groups that now have de facto control over a vast tract of Syria.

Even if such an outcome was possible — and the White House seems certain it’s not — it would be ruinous for Syria. Assad’s opponents are hardly on the verge of defeat, and the toll of half a decade of bloodletting and destruction would make it very unlikely that the current regime could ever regain the trust of the entire battered nation.