Tuesday, September 10, 2013


In my last blog, I began with my reaction to those in Congress and the media who were so quick to rally around the call for a military strike on Syria. Of course, there was a much bigger story, namely that the bandwagon attracted so few Americans. I don’t recall a more widespread popular anti-war sentiment at the outset of any previous presidential war initiative.

There is at last a deep-seated feeling that, despite our vast military power, US acts of military intervention and war are futile and inevitably add to havoc at home as well as abroad.

Of course that big story led to another big story. The avenue to international cooperation that was supposedly hopelessly blocked has opened up. The road ahead is difficult and uncertain, but mindless assumptions that sought to justify a unilateral US strike are shattered. The UN is not irrelevant. Nor does the fact that most of the world, including Russia and China, opposes a military strike mean that it's impossible collectively to uphold international law and enforce the prohibition of chemical weapons. On the contrary, worldwide and domestic opposition to the strike is exactly what makes another path possible. (President Obama, interviewed by Gwen Ifill on the PBS News Hour, pointed out something as if it might be a surprise: Iran and Hezbollah are also opposed to chemical warfare!)

There are some who fear that if we don’t bomb Syria after declaring a “red line”, we may not uphold a “red line” by going to war against Iran. That clearly is why Netanyahu and AIPAC are lobbying Congress for the military strike. Maybe the Syria experience will lead to a new direction concerning Iran. Instead of sitting on another “red line” with cocked weapons of war, it’s time to act with conviction that meaningful international cooperation is necessary and possible.

A lot divides nations and people within nations, but avoiding mass destruction is a universal human interest. Yesterday’s initiative by Russia, and the positive though “cautious” response by Obama, opens the door that pundits told us was locked and bolted. It’s up to us, people everywhere, to keep it open as the only gateway to a less violent world in which bitter conflicts may be resolved or contained.

Meanwhile, everything possible should be done to relieve the suffering of millions of Syrians. Oxfam America has been exemplary in gathering aid for the victims while absolutely opposing a US military strike.

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