Only days ago, President Barack Obama was about to unleash war on Syria, whose government had caused hundreds of deaths on 21 August when having ordered the use of chemical weapons on rebel strongholds in Ghouta east of Damascus, even without congressional support. A strange “Governmental Assessment” (in order words, his own estimate) had not convinced a majority of the Senate or the House nor the American people nor anybody reasonable outside the U.S. “A preliminary U.S. government (sic!) assessment determined that 1,429 people were killed in the chemical weapons attack, including at least 426 children, though this assessment will certainly evolve as we obtain more information,” was overly precise and significantly deviates from intelligence information of the UK’s Joint Intelligence Organisation (“at least 350 fatalities”) and probably France.
Fact of the matter is that, in the meantime, his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, has temporarily saved Obama from a serious political defeat. He actually saved Obama’s face with a new diplomatic initiative aiming at getting Syria’s arsenal of chemical weapons under international control (an impossible mission, by the way, in the civil war-stricken country) and ultimately destroy them. Bashar al-Assad, for the first time, admitted to even possess chemical weapons, pledged to sign the international Chemical Weapons Convention, and unsurprisingly formulated preconditions: the U.S. stops threatening to strike Syria and stops arming rebels.
Putin’s remarkable op-ed the New York Times the other day in which he disagreed (actually speaking for all of us) with Obama’s nationalistic claim that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional,” has led to but a tiny storm in the mainstream media. It is in fact “extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.”
It seems, Obama has buckled. He would no longer push in the UN Security Council for military action in Syria. It is hoped that he has, after his dispensable address to the nation of Tuesday this week, understood a lesson. American foreign policy is not measure of all things. Rather the opposite. Obama, who has been one of the worst American presidents in his first term already, may eventually realize that he has failed in all fields. The high expectations he had nurtured with a couple of outstanding speeches, after G.W. Bush’s disastrous foreign adventures, are going to backfire.
An angry Noam Chomsky stressed on Wednesday in DemocracyNow! a couple of simple facts,
“[H]e [Obama in his remarks in address to the nation on 10 September] said that for seven decades the United States has been ‘the anchor of global security.’ Really? Seven decades? That includes, for example, just 40 years ago today, when the United States played a major role in overthrowing the parliamentary democracy of Chile and imposing a brutal dictatorship, called ‘the first 9/11’ in Latin America. Go back earlier years, overthrowing the parliamentary system in Iran, imposing a dictatorship; same in Guatemala a year later; attacking Indochina, the worst crime in the postwar period, killing millions of people; attacking Central America; killing—involved in killing—in imposing a dictatorship in the Congo; and invading Iraq—on and on. That’s stability? I mean, that a Harvard Law School graduate can pronounce those words is pretty amazing, as is the fact that they’re accepted without comment.
“The appropriate response [after Russia’s diplomatic initiative aiming at getting international control over Syria’s chemical weapons] would be to call for imposing the chemical weapons convention in the Middle East—in fact beyond, but we’ll keep to the Middle East—which would mean that any country that is in violation of that convention, whether it has accepted it or not, would be compelled to eliminate its chemical weapons stores. Just maintaining those stores, producing chemical weapons, all of that’s in violation of the convention, and now is a perfect opportunity to do that. Of course, that would require that U.S. ally Israel give up its chemical weapons and permit international inspections. Incidentally, this should extend to nuclear weapons, as well. The further step would be to move towards the kinds of negotiations, Geneva negotiations, that the U.N. negotiator, Lakhdar Brahimi, has been calling for, with Russian support and with the United States kind of dragging its feet.”
14 September 2013 @ 9:45 am.
Last modified September 14, 2013.