When Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, stood in the way of Henry II of England, reports are that the king uttered these words: “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” Henry’s men took this not as an idle wish but as a command, and killed Becket.
Except in times of war (which has taken on an ever fuzzier meaning), the assassination of world leaders risks crossing all kinds of legal, moral, and political lines, not to mention its assault on national sovereignty and its likelihood to incite new problems and precedents as it resolves old ones.
Nevertheless, even the most humane among us – or especially the most humane – may be heard to paraphrase good King Henry regarding Syria: “Will no one rid us of this of this genocidal leader?”
Sad to say that Syria today may not even be the worst we’ve seen in recent years. But there is some quality about it, perhaps the arrogance and impunity of Assad, perhaps the daily display of malevolent slaughter, which sets this one apart.
It would not be surprising to learn that in the corridors of power, behind closed doors, a “wish” like that is being made. In the front rooms idealistic but unworkable peace plans are being announced, but maybe in some back rooms there is talk about the pragmatics and consequences of “ridding.”
You have to be careful what you wish for, since wish fulfillment can carry high and unexpected prices. But for some, particularly those living in daily fear of annihilation and mayhem, the price may be worth it if certain wishes do come true.