Syria has accepted a Russian proposal to turn over its chemical weapons — and President Barack Obama has delayed military action against Syria.
The world has escaped a major escalation in an already chaotic Middle East.
Why wasn’t this current idea proposed before a missile/bombing attack was presented as the only alternative to doing nothing?
Can Syrian President Bashar Assad and Soviet President Vladimir Putin be trusted in dealing with Syria’s chemical weapon stockpiles?
What about the civil war raging amidst tons of weapons of mass destruction scattered throughout 50 locations?
How will the various players now behave?
There’s only one reality we can trust: All will act in their own self-interests.
Assad wants to stay in power. He’s now guaranteed this for quite some time, since his government alone can locate the chemicals and support their removal. While Assad wins big with this plan, the Syrian rebel forces will probably be demoralized.
Putin wants to be seen as a hero and Russia to again be recognized as a superpower.
Obama wants to be seen as having inspired a viable solution.
Congress, NATO, the European Union and the Arab League are breathing huge sighs of relief. They want resolution but no responsibility.
That said, the international community must now find common goals and solutions which meet these independent self-interests.
There is one goal around which all might unite. No one wants WMD to fall into the hands of jihadists. The new plan should help in this regard, while serving as a wake-up call to the fact that jihadists were far more likely to somehow secure some WMD if America had attacked and weakened Assad. And the crisis should serve as a longer term wake-up call to halt Iran’s and then the region’s march toward nuclear weapons.
It’s clearly time for action — and it matters not who gets credit for solutions.
This is not about Obama. Nor about Putin.
America was ready to unleash a hornet’s nest of unintended consequences. Now this can be avoided — as long as the various players respect each other’s interests, discuss possible ways forward privately, and avoid making public demands which can derail progress.
Calm, thoughtful, selfless leadership is required. While they’ve failed miserably in the past in this regard, hopefully American, Russian and U.N. leaders will miraculously rise to the occasion.
Citizens worldwide want this, as indicated in recent weeks.
Last week, 100,000 filled St. Peter’s Square for a vigil supporting Pope Francis’ call for peace, launching other vigils worldwide.
Anti-war protests were held in Washington, New York and dozens of other American cities and towns. Citizens spoke out at town hall meetings, and via telephone calls and emails to their political representatives. Opposition to any airstrike was overwhelming. And prior to the Russian proposal, Obama’s request for authorization to strike was headed to an embarrassing defeat in Congress.
The U.S. proposal has been almost totally rejected because people worldwide, particularly Americans, are war-weary, especially when it comes to the Middle East.
Everybody wants an end to the seemingly endless violence and bloodshed.
After calamities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Iranian Revolution, the Iran-Iraq war, the first Gulf War, 9/11, Iraq and Afghanistan, the aftermath of the Arab Spring, and the Syrian civil war, the Middle East remains dangerously destabilized. Al-Qaida and other Islamist groups are spreading globally like a metastasizing cancer. Syria, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Israel are all engaged in what could potentially become catastrophic conflicts.
The entire region is a powder keg waiting for a match to strike. Today the world has spoken against the U.S. lighting that match.
Average Americans are asking four basic questions:
1. Since these people seem intent on violence and even killing each other, while their citizens are far from ready to participate in representative governments, is this really our problem to solve?
2. Whenever despots are removed, doesn’t the situation in these countries almost always become worse (witness Iran, Egypt, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan)? Don’t these people subsequently reject us after we sacrifice much trying to liberate them?
3. Aren’t there better alternatives to the U.S. intervening alone and then owning the mess that always follows?
4. No matter how long it takes, shouldn’t the U.N. and especially the Arab nations lead in seeking and implementing solutions?
Twelve years after 9/11, let’s pray that the deplorable use of chemical weapons in Syria now provokes the entire free world to unite and finally seriously address a set of complex interrelated problems that ultimately need to be solved.