Russia to the Rescue?

It may yet fall through, but the Russian-brokered deal to collect Syria’s chemical weapons seems a genuine and life-saving diplomatic breakthrough. If successful, the Russians’ win-win-win solution to the problem of Syria’s chemical weapons spares Syria, the Mideast and the world another pointless war prosecuted by Americans on supposedly moral grounds. Syria is saved destructive military attack, Russia looks agile and constructive and can legitimately claim credit for being so, and President Barack Obama gets to assert, with even some justification, that none of this would have happened if it had not been for his threat to drag a reluctant country to war with Syria.

Kudos all around. The Obama administration should declare victory and withdraw the resolution before Congress authorizing military action against Syria, chastened, one hopes, by the unpopularity of its bungling and belligerent response to chemical attacks in Syria. Having made the initial mistake of drawing a red line that should never have been drawn, Obama then compounded it by seeking to enforce it with action that seemed all about saving face for the administration rather than improving conditions on the ground in Syria or even deterring future chemical attacks. He could not credibly explain what he hoped to achieve by launching military strikes against Syria, and even those who supported the venture fell back on lame justifications. Attacking Syria would be sending a message to Iran; Obama’s presidency would be imperiled if Congress did not support him. The argument seemed to be that the American people should follow Obama lemminglike over the cliff he created. The good news here is that if Obama has lost some credibility—our presidents are supposed to solve crises, not create them—the credibility of American democracy has been enhanced. In the wake of Edward Snowden’s ongoing revelations about how completely our country has turned into an intrusive national security state run by Big Brother, our democracy has never looked more feeble, but the pushback by the American public against war offers hope that our democracy still has some vigor.

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Finally, the requirement that the Syrian government turn over its chemical weapons to the international community means that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad will preside over that effort. The Obama administration may be forced to dial back its demand that Assad give up office before negotiations between the Syrian government and rebels can go forward. That could be a positive step towards ending the civil war, as demanding that one side in a conflict change its leadership before negotiations can proceed is an effective no-starter to talks.

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Marie Rehbein
5 years 3 months ago
Syria, obviously, is "friends" with Russia in the person of Assad. It is very unlikely that Russia would permit a change in leadership, which for the sake of world peace, may be for the best, given that Iran has aspirations in the Middle East due to concern that its own oil reserves are dwindling.
James Balma
5 years 3 months ago
An off-hand rhetorical comment by a US Secretary of State starts a potential peace process initiated by non-friend (to the US) nation. A day of fasting and prayer for peace led by the Pope. Coincidence?
Carlos Orozco
5 years 3 months ago
I don't think so, James. Let's not forget other incredible things that have happened these last days: the British Parliament voting down what seemed a sure vote for Cameron (openly) getting involved in Syria; Congress suddenly realizing that they too had a duty to get involved in matters of war and peace; the peace movement in America finally starting to wake up from its Obama infatuation. God seems to protect us, satisfied with the crumbs we give Him in return for His Love.
James Balma
5 years 3 months ago
Carlos, I don't disagree with anything you have written; I only suggest that maybe prayer has an influence on events. Old Joke: A man is swept out to sea in a raft and prays to God "If you are real save me". A ship comes by and offers aid but the man refuses awaiting God's help. The same with a helicopter. A large wave sweeps him overboard and he drowns. He gets to heaven and asks God why he didn't save him. God responds with "Well I sent a ship and a helicopter" Coincidence or God's hand acting through humans or nature?
Carlos Orozco
5 years 3 months ago
There is no disagreement, James. I answered no, responding to your rhetorical question.
Tim O'Leary
5 years 3 months ago
Some strange and unprecedented things going on, with two world leaders communicating by letters to the media. First, Pope Francis responds to a letter from atheist founder Eugenio Scalfari of leading Italian newspaper “La Repubblica” with a remarkably sensitive response on faith and conscience (http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-francis-letter-to-the-founder-of-la-repubblica-italian-newspaper.) "This is, for the Christian faith, the certificate of the fact that Jesus is risen: not to triumph over those who rejected him, but to attest that the love of God is stronger than death, the forgiveness of God is stronger than any sin, and that it is worthwhile to spend one’s life, to the end, witnessing this immense gift." Now President Putin responds to Obama's speech on Syria in the NYT, making a lot more sense (from a Just War perspective) than President Obama (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/12/opinion/putin-plea-for-caution-from-russia-on-syria.html?_r=0), and ending with a petition for the Lord's blessing, something our President has never done. "We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal." Whatever the motivations (which we do not know but assume are self-serving), these unconventional novelties are really shaking things up.
J Cosgrove
5 years 3 months ago
I suggest the author of this article and all those interested, listen to a commentary by Stephen Cohen of NYU. He is an expert on Russian history. He was on the John Batchelor show on Tuesday night and the podcast is available at http://www.johnbatchelorshow.com/podcasts/2013/09/10/third-hour The first two segments are an interview with Stephen Cohen. Cohen is a socialist and Russian apologist and his wife is the editor of "The Nation" one of the most liberal/left publications in the US. But he has an interesting perspective on what is happening. By the way the JohnBatchelorShow is probably the most eclectic show anywhere in the world. If you want to keep up with the Mideast, China, Africa and South America as well as American politics, listen to this show. It does have a tilt but both the left and right are covered. Witness that Stephen Cohen is a frequent commenter. Also the most common expression going around is "played" in the sense that Obama has been played by Putin. Chemical weapons, while reprehensible, is a side show. It has nothing to do with the long range outcome of the strife going on in the Mideast. It is a red herring and somehow we are fixed on this relatively minor instance at the expense of what the overall picture is.
Carlos Orozco
5 years 3 months ago
Fortunately, for world peace, while Putin/Lavrov are playing very good chess, Obama/Kerry don't seem to agree on the rules of checkers. Although handing the President his behind, they have also managed to throw him a lifeline, saving him the humilliation of Congress defeating his proposal to attack Syria. It is imperative not to suppose the crisis is over. It is highly unlikely the powerful war faction is ready to accept defeat. Expect ANYTHING. For now, the neocons (known and in the closet) seem to be in disarray. Following the President's address on Tuesday, the administration has not provided a single bit of evidence linking Bashar al-Assad to the horrible chemical attack of August. Colin Powell's lies in the UN were far more convincing. The public has learned to detect a false-flag or, at the very least, understand it is being played.

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