Some will say Obama’s speech on Syria was a brilliant use of his skills of triangulation. (I could care less about that, as triangulation is a way to get the best result for the triangulator–in this case, Obama–and not necessarily or even probably for the country). Others have said his speech was muddy and he has no policy. And it has all been complicated by Putin’s op-ed in today’s Times.
I should be used to it by now, and I was still caught off guard by the rapid and rabid response accusing Obama of weakness and conceding defeat for America. “It was horrible.” “Unthinkable.” And it wasn’t just Republicans (though certainly more of them), there were also many Democrats I heard throwing Obama under the bus because he sought peace rather than violence. Stephen Colbert last night had a brilliant piece on Rand Paul, sounding more confused and contradictory than usual on the whole thing. It’s worth your time to go to Colbert Nation and watch it.
I was out for dinner with old friends on Monday night, sitting outside on a beautiful night. We could see but not hear the televisions inside the restaurant and at one point a conservative, religious friend saw Obama on the television and said under his breath with disgust, Obama is telling the country why he isn’t going to bomb Syria. I moved the conversation in another direction.
Putin makes some obviously cogent points in his op-ed. Certainly we have reason not to trust him, and some things he says are questionable, like claiming there is every reason to believe the poison gas was not used by the Syrian army but by the opposition. Well, he’s shown no evidence to support that. And sadly, we have shown little to no evidence to support our case that it was done by the Syrian army. Therein lies the problem. And possibly also the solution.
If we believe in change, believe that it is possible things can get better, why not try for a peaceful, diplomatic solution? Our bombs will still be there. We can always use them later if we need to. Any honest assessment of history surely shows that getting involved militarily is at least as likely as not to escalate and kill more civilians than otherwise would have died. No, we should not tolerate the gassing of children. And if we can find a way to contain and control those chemical weapons–verified to everyone’s satisfaction–isn’t that the better option?
Evidently not, to hear our politicians talk. And our friends. Apparently, our hatred and distrust of Putin goes beyond even considering this a possibility. The blood lust has amazed me. It really is true that because we have the weapons, we always think the bomb is the answer. They can taste the blood and dammit want to see the explosions, the shock and awe of bombing.
If the whole thing weren’t so sad and potentially dangerous, it would be amusing watching the Republicans twist themselves into pretzels. “We have to do something!” “The president better get congressional approval!” “He’s a coward and has shown America is weak by not just launching the missiles. Why does he want congress to approve it?” Amusing because even though the Republicans control congress, they don’t have the votes to approve launching missiles, as the country is holding strong in favor of not getting involved. They wanted their blood lust satisfied without having any responsibility for launching the weapons of destruction.
I have no idea really what the actual situation is in Syria or who used the poison gas. So all I can say about it is that it is very sad, and that we should do something to try and prevent it from happening again. And that if that something can be diplomatic that is better than the something being bombs that will kill yet more people.
I can observe the domestic politics of it, and respond to our own politicians public offerings on the subject. And that response is sadness.
Say what you may about Obama, I applaud him for being one of the few people in our government who has not let bloodlust cloud his thinking completely. Yes, that term will offend some, and you Jim may think it inflammatory. As I hear our politicians speak, I think the term is merely descriptive, and to use a milder term would be to give them a benefit of the doubt they have long ceased to earn. It would be pretending they are something they aren’t. Calling it what it is–bloodlust–may shock some into waking up and realizing what they are suggesting we do. They want to see bombs. That is clear. It isn’t quite as ginned up yet as in the lead up to Iraq, and I pray it never gets that ginned up. And there is evidently something about being part of a government that holds more weapons than any government in history that really really makes you want to see them used.