Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Syria 2.0

    In 1962, the world stood on the edge of nuclear annihilation as the United States and the Soviet Union threatened one an-other over Soviet missiles being placed in Cuba.
    As Russian ships sailed closer and closer to a U.S. blockade line, a confronta-tion appeared inevitable, a confrontation that could easily have spiraled into the mutually assured destruction of nuclear war.
    Luckily for the world, President John Kennedy chose to hear one voice among the chorus, the voice that offered a way out without violence. Cooler heads pre-vailed and the use of nuclear weapons re-mained unimaginable.
    The horrors of the use of poison gas in World War I placed chemical weapons out of bounds, even in warfare. Today, evi-dence seems clear that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces used chemical weapons on his own citizens, including women and children.
    After examining the evidence, Presi-dent Barack Obama announced that the United States would use its massive air power to punish al-Assad for that use. Mindful that neither Saddam Hussein nor Osama bin Laden are still on the world scene, al-Assad has warned of dire conse-quences. Despite pushback from domestic and foreign voices, some kind of U.S. mili-tary strike on Syria appeared inevitable.
    But in foreign affairs, things can change quickly. An alternative to military action has dropped suddenly into the midst of the debate. Whether an un-guarded comment or an idea floated as a trial balloon, Secretary of State John Kerry suggested in an interview that the U.S. might hold off on any military action if Syria would give up its chemical weap-ons and submit to international inspec-tions to verify that it had done so.
    The proposal carries a certain irony. Prior to an American invasion in 2003, international inspections for chemical and nuclear weapons in Iraq were successful in controlling Saddam Hussein’s capacity for mass destruction. Then, however, no effective voice could stop the chorus shouting for war.
    Diplomatic options appear far more palatable this time. Almost out of no-where, the prospect of a more peaceful solution is dangling before us. Russia, which is Syria’s closest Western ally, seems willing to help enforce inspections, despite its sometimes more bellicose rhetoric.
    It’s not like the U.S. is in favor of any-thing or anyone in Syria. This seems, however, like a moment of possibility. What tomorrow brings is, to say the least, uncertain, but uncertain is better than disastrous.

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