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Friday, September 20, 2013

The freakout over Syria


The terrible situation in Syria is complex and unstable. The President’s threat of attack seems to have yielded concessions from Syria and Russia that were unthinkable a few weeks ago. It remains to be seen whether it will work out favorably and Syria will actually give up their chemical weapons.

What is sure that both the right and the far left are already condemning the President.

This article by David Harada Stone nails it.

On Sept. 9, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was asked during a press conference in London whether there was anything Assad could do to avoid a military strike and he replied: “Sure, he could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov jumped at Kerry’s seemingly off-the-cuff remarks, urging (as in ordering) longtime Russian ally Assad to comply with Kerry’s demand. When an interviewer asked Obama if he would put airstrikes on hold if Assad gave up control of his chemical weapons, he replied, “absolutely.” Strange that a “gaffe,” which is what many pundits contend Kerry’s remarks were, would generate such a seemingly well choreographed response. In fact, Obama and Putin had apparently been talking off and on about such a plan for months.
So here’s the chronology: Obama draws a “red line.” Assad crosses it, murdering hundreds of civilians in a gas attack. Obama threatens to retaliate. Congress hems and haws, the left revolts, the Tea Party sides with the dictator because the enemy of their enemy (Obama) is their friend, Kerry provides an opening, Lavrov responds, a deal is struck to get rid of Assad’s chemical weapons (Obama’s goal all along) and … (wait for it) PUTIN WINS! See how that works?
One could – if charitably disposed toward the president or even just possessed of a modicum of fairness – give Obama some credit for bringing this situation to a head. He pursued what he knew would be a politically unpopular course to make a principled stand. He knew that history would judge America and his presidency harshly if he let the world just walk away from a nearly century-old norm against the use of chemical weapons (and no, the fact that Reagan turned a blind eye to Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons outrages in the 1980s would not have softened that judgment). It seems safe to say that without Obama’s threat nothing would have happened, except maybe more chemical weapons attacks on Syrian civilians.

Check out the whole thing.

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