The Widdershins

What do you want to hear…

Posted on: September 10, 2013

Sorry to be posting so late this fine Tuesday. Over and above having a wedding hangover, I had difficulty getting the siteHead in Sand to cooperate, but Chat jumped in and saved my bacon and Fredster has helped a technologically blind man see. In any event, I hope this is a fine day for you.

It appears that 36 hours can indeed be the time needed to cure a case of Syrian stalemate. It doesn’t take a “rocket surgeon” to see the idea of dismantling and taking possession of a 100-ton cache of nerve agents was swirling about long before John Kerry threw out his off-the-French cuff statement in London yesterday morning. Within three hours both the Russians and Syrians said, “Yep, sounds good to me,” and shortly thereafter, the U.N. was all warm and fuzzy about the prospects as well.

The attractiveness to Russia and Syria was apparent — anything to buy time, forestall further weakening of Assad, and not strengthen the rebels. The U.N. is just glad and giddy about having some productive role and again not be relegated to feckless irrelevancy.

Over and above the issue of striking Syria in retaliation for the use of nerve gas, Obama has an opportunity tonight in his primetime speech. It is an opportunity to do something that he has been pitifully incapable of doing or to which he has been stubbornly resistant. He needs to make sense of experience — one of the tenets of leadership I’ve mentioned before in this space where he is woefully lacking.

It seems to me the threat of retaliatory strikes brought some strategic logic to the Russians and Assad. All well and good, but for Obama it is merely a small piece of a much larger leadership opportunity for both him and the United States.

Given the almost isolationist mood of the country, we are still suffering from the legacy of having been lied into the Iraq War. In that respect, we are still captive and vulnerable to the failed Bush policies. While learning from mistakes is admirable, allowing mistakes to guide future acts is myopic, a recipe for inaction, and becoming a reactor instead of a catalyst.

Simply put, Obama has an opportunity tonight to put the Syrian mess into perspective. He must elevate the issue beyond the sectarian civil war, he must make the issue about the use of agents of mass murder that have no place in a civilized world. He must make sense of our collective experience of looking beyond twelve years of Iraq and Afghanistan and call to our greater angels of not allowing rogue states to commit mass genocide without repercussions.

In many ways, this isn’t about Syria, it is about Iran, North Korea, Darfur, Rwanda, and any number of other third world despots yet to rise. Obama has an opportunity to bring the country along with a greater sense of morality and ethos in relation to our fellow humans. To fail to make the case for our shared values allows us to calcify into inaction and become hardened to atrocity.

With the threat of war being no longer imminent, perhaps Obama can move the dialogue to a place where it should be — enforcing an international treaty where acts of homicidal genocide are not tolerated. That is an aspirational and quite worthy legacy.

What do you want to hear from President Obama tonight?

This is a belatedly open thread.

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10 Responses to "What do you want to hear…"

A post well worth the wait. I have just heard that Assad has caved, so perhaps things will be set to rights.

I would like to hear that we have finally learned something from history. Genocide will never again be ignored or tolerated.

It is ironic that the failed Bush policies are now continuing to control our vision of what our foreign relations policies should look like.

The epitome of irony is that the failed Bush policies are giving us the Rand Paul and Ted Cruz vision of how we should conduct foreign policy. If we weren’t living this, it would be hard to believe.

Prolix said:Obama has an opportunity to bring the country along with a greater sense of morality and ethos in relation to our fellow humans

I sincerely hope he takes that path tonight. It would put us in a much better position than merely siding with the Assad opponents. That has been a concern with me because people who side with Al Qaeda have been a part of those opponents.

The whole thing is a mess. It’s hard to be on either side because both are, frankly, awful. The rebels haven’t used chemical weapons because they don’t have any. These are not nice people. So who’s worse? Ahhh, that’s the million dollar question.

It’s been interesting to see the reactions of my Tea Party acquaintances on facebook. They were just outraged and shocked that Obama went to Congress (someone to blame, they said). That he’s considering any action at all (don’t remind them about Bush’s wars – all entirely justified). They are siding with the Russians (Putin isn’t so bad.) And the funny thing is that many of my liberal (progressive?) friends feel the same way! Who could have predicted that Assad would bring them together.

Well the speech wasn’t bad.

D, you are right about this:
The whole thing is a mess. It’s hard to be on either side because both are, frankly, awful.

You have T.P. friends D? That should be interesting.

I just got in about ten o’clock and have only heard excerpts from the speech. I’ve had to put CNN on mute because they seem to think they are Faux and yelling at each other. Normally I don’t care much for Andrew Sullivan, but i have to agree with him that the American military does not do “pinprick” strikes.

At first, my automatic reaction two weeks ago was, bomb Syria, this is a crime against humanity and cannot be tolerated. Then I thought and listened and became convinced that there is no way to attack a country in a “limited’ way. This is not Bosnia, it is very different.

So now I’m looking at the muted faces of Christiane Amanpour and Andrew Sullivan yelling at each other, and I’ve got to go with Sullivan on this one. This is a watershed moment. We, the United States, either eschew cowboy wars and learn to work internationally to achieve diplomatic solutions, or we will become irrelevant at best, and at worst, we could set off something akin to the third world war. After which we will be irrelevant.

Mary Luke said: I’ve had to put CNN on mute

That ought to be a requirement! 😆

Very good post, prolix. Its true that we are victims (mentally) of the horrible Bush wars and that it informs our thinking on this issue.

I was in the Post Office today and there were two men in front of me in line and one of them was a Syrian Christian, and he was saying that Obama is the antichrist and Assad “knows what he is doing”!!! So says the man safe and comfortable in southern California. Oh, he also said his sister is missing.

John Stewart is doing a piece on Syria right now called “Much Ado About Bombing”.

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