It would appear that as of now, we are indeed inching away from the precipice of another military campaign in the Middle East. As of today, Syria has accepted the proposal by the Russian government to give up their chemical weapons stocks to the international community. Hopefully from there they’ll be destroyed. With so many Americans fervently opposed to President Obama’s resolution to use military force against Syria, this seems to be the best outcome for all parties involved — Syria, Russia, the United States, and the rest of the world. Any time a diplomatic, peaceful resolution can be found, that’s a victory for humanity.
You’re going to hear the partisans thump their chest about who gets credit for what. Truthfully? Who gives a shit? I would really like to see a world one day when no matter who does the right thing for humanity, we all celebrate together as one, instead of slicing off pieces of the credit and divvying them up to our favorite team players. If you want to go with the “Russia’s proposal never would have worked without the threat of an American cruise missile,” you’re basically saying “Hoo-ray for being the guy who threatens to punch you in the face if you’re not peaceful.” If you try to give all the credit to Putin you short-change the fact that Russia has been turning a blind eye to the carnage in Syria for as long as America has and only got involved apparently after Obama and Putin played a game of “slap and tickle” and G20.
You’re going to see the Team Obama people proclaim he was playing some form of international chess and his sheer brilliance won the day. I guess the implication is that Obama does in fact have powers of divination and knew all along that if he threatened to rush us into another Middle Eastern conflict in support of a rebel group that is every bit as brutal and barbaric as the Assad regime is that Putin would drop everything and rush in to help. That’s obviously a load of pie-in-the-sky bullshit, but it’s a perfect illustration of what’s wrong with this country. We’ve become so polarized by party affiliation that things like ideologies about war and peace get shoved to the side when a president proposes war. Republicans support Republican wars, and Democrats support Democratic wars.
The bottom line is that a peaceful settlement has been reached and while it won’t end the body counts rising in the civil war, it will help us all sleep better at night knowing innocent children aren’t being gassed in their sleep. This Syrian crisis was never about whether or America or our international partners have a role to play in relieving it. The question for many of us was “Why are more missiles and bombs going to help a situation riddled with missiles and bombs?” I’ve still yet to hear a cogent, salient answer to that question, so for me I couldn’t possibly care less who brought sanity back to the conversation. I have no doubt that Obama and Putin set the wheels in motion at G20 because the timing just seems too perfect otherwise. If anything, this negotiation should prove that U.S.-Russian relations aren’t nearly as bad as the media would have us believe.
What I hope this dust-up does is get us back on the path toward more peaceful resolutions. If we share the credit, it only fosters more good will. The truth is that both Putin and Obama do deserve credit for their leadership in this moment in history. Even though I didn’t agree with or want the Syrian military resolution, I am willing to acknowledge that Obama’s decisive move certainly put pressure on the international community. I would argue though that it was a pretty sad and overly-aggressive way of applying pressure. I would argue that we are also fully capable of negotiating with our mouths and not our guns too, but for now, I am okay with accepting that we had to push while Russia got to prod.
I saw another side of American politics this past week and a half or so, and it’s ugly. When we let partisanship railroad us into going along with plans that eight years ago we’d be appalled by — something has broken in America-Land. Don’t get me wrong, I interacted with plenty of people over the Syria question that were consistent in their views. They opposed the Iraq War and they were equally as opposed to this proposed Syrian War, and make no mistake, that’s exactly what was being proposed — a war. But then we had the “Rah-Rah” team players either saying Obama was a war monger after they voted for President Cheney twice or we had Obama supporters calling us all “isolationists” and “unpatriotic” (Gee, I wonder where I heard shit like that before?) because we didn’t want to charge into another war in the desert.
They say (who’s they?) that “the truth is in the middle somewhere.” Nowhere is that adage more applicable than when discussing how this Syrian chemical weapons debacle went down. If you ask me, you could give just as much credit to George W. Bush and Dick “War Gives Me a Hard-On” Cheney for how this all shook out. After all, it was that kind of colossal American foreign policy fuck-up that the rest of the world was desperately trying to ignore. Even Obama himself had to play things differently thanks to Bush. Who knows if Obama takes the proposal to use force in Syria to Congress without the Iraq War so fresh on our minds?
All the cynicism aside, a few facts remain, and from where I sit, facts should win out over team player bullshit.
1. The Assad regime agreed to hand over their chemical weapons.
2. President Obama though unwise in his desire for a military solution, was very prudent in bringing the question before Congress, allowing more time before any decisions are made.
3. Russian President Putin stepped into a hornet’s nest and delivered a solid victory for peace.
President Obama still has a NeoCon streak. President Putin is still a lying, slimy homophobic douche rocket. That list up there may be small, but it is unquestionably relevant to the discussion. Our leaders aren’t perfect, and neither are we. Sometimes you just have to put the partisan stuff aside, lay the pom-poms down and give everyone who deserves it a round of applause. Regardless of how we got here, we got here, and as long as Syria holds up their end of the bargain, a tiny sliver of sanity was restored. Granted, the civil war will still rage on, but if Assad can be convinced to hand over his chemical weapons, and that felt like a miracle that would never come to fruition, that means there’s still hope for an even bigger victory for sanity — and end to the war entirely.