Sunday, September 15, 2013


So the impossible seems possible after all.

We were told that the only alternative to a US military strike was to turn a blind eye to the use of chemical weapons. Why? Because Russia would block any meaningful response and the UN was powerless and irrelevant. ‘Only the USA cares and defends the moral high ground; only we have the military power to enforce international law while violating it; the consequences of failing to deliver military punishment would be far more dangerous than what might come of bombing Syria.’

Syria remains in awful straits and the world is surely still in bad shape, but suddenly things look somewhat more hopeful. If Russia and the United States can act so quickly in an emergency to fashion an agreement on getting rid of Syria’s chemical weapons, how may the realm of the possible now be expanded? First, can the plan be carried to successful completion by further US-Russian cooperation within the UN? Can the proposed Geneva conference on Syria go ahead? And what about Iran? Can serious negotiations now take place with the new Iranian government?

The hawks are very unhappy, from John McCain to Netanyahu. They fear that the unprecedentedly fierce opposition to another US military thrust, especially within the United States itself, may be a global game changer. They fear that the turn to diplomacy and the United Nations may represent a developing adjustment to a new world reality in which no super power, no matter how superior in weapons of war, can determine how the world turns.

Some who justify military intervention for humanitarian purposes may have mixed feelings. For example, Nicolas Kristof, who is an admirable voice of conscience against abuses of human rights, argues that only the threat of US force created the shift toward Russian-US cooperation. More reasonably, it was precisely the worldwide rejection of another US military incursion in the Middle East that kept us from stumbling over the brink. That’s what made a different and far better answer possible.

Obama, as usual, is getting a lot of flack, for being indecisive on the one hand, and for his warlike posturing on the other. As with any US president, watch out when the call comes for military action and the appeal is made to national pride and American exceptionalism. I think Obama is clearly a reluctant warrior, far from a John McCain. However, while often ambivalent and conflicted, he remains tied to the increasingly untenable outlook of expansive US military and economic domination. Maybe the reality of overwhelming anti-war sentiment can tilt him further toward committing to international cooperation to solve problems rather than to the “red lines” that exacerbate them.    

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