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The decision by Obama to put off bombing Syria pending congressional approval gives the world a much needed breathing space, as we hurl toward Armageddon and possibly World War III. Vital interests are being threatened, not least the Russians', who are determined to protect their only warm water port.
The insanity of launching cruise missiles, indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction, in order to punish the use of other weapons of mass destruction, has brought into sharp relief the utter insanity of war. If Syria is attacked by the US, as always, many civilians will die, as death rains down from the sky on innocent women, children, and noncombatants. This is not just a byproduct of war. It is war itself. it is the cruel heart of war, then and now, one hundred percent of the time.
But when you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Syria's allies Iran, Russia and China getting dragged into a wider conflict would be disastrous. Iran alone has hundreds of small boats armed with Russian made anti-ship missiles designed to sink American aircraft carriers, the N-22 Sunburn (Mach 2.1) and the N-26 Onyx (Mach 3). They also have the Chinese made C-802 which has a 364 pound warhead.
What is the silver lining to be grasped? Where can we go now from here? It is axiomatic that for great change to take place, we must be shaken from our ordinary complacency. We must take pause, look up, and see the train wreck taking shape in the distance.
The events of the last months in the Middle East may serve as such a wake-up call. We might say that, before the respite now granted, when just a week ago we were being told that "bombing might begin as soon as Thursday," the world managed to scare itself half to death.
The world has seen this before, with the Cuban Missile Crisis. We did not fall off the edge for one reason: the strong, sure grasp of one of our greatest presidents, United States President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. We have no Jack to look to now. Obama is no Jack Kennedy.
Would Jack Kennedy have bombed Syria, to stop violence? Somehow I think the answer to that question is no. Jack Kennedy stopped the invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs, stopped a plan to draw the US into war with that country by attacking our own citizens, Operation Northwoods. Jack knew that everything is not a nail, and that hammers solve precious few problems.
Therefore the people of the world themselves must lead.
Now that we are all paying attention, it may be time to propose grand solutions, of the kind which might take hold only when everyone is frightened of the future. It's time for some creative thinking.
For one set of possibilities, I humbly submit my first draft:
- For Syria, urge the parties to declare an immediate ceasefire, and launch an international investigation into the use of the chemical weapons. It is not at all clear where the weapons came from, or who used them, with some reports tracing them back to Saudi intelligence and use by the rebels. Wherever the chips fall, that is who should be charged to eventually face justice for international war crimes.
- Arrange safe haven for non-combatants in Syria, either in the country protected by a no-fly zone, or through international aid to neighboring countries which agree to shelter them. The amount of money which would be spent on million dollar cruise missiles and other munitions would probably easily cover a good chunk of this.
- Guarantee Russia's access to its warm water port, a vital economic lifeline in which it has a firm national interest. It is incredibly dangerous to back a nuclear-armed state into a desperate corner. With Russia's own ports frozen solid a good part of the year, its already shaky economy could never withstand such a blow. This would assure Putin that no one is interested in taking his queen, a dangerous ploy.
- Call for elections in Syria at the earliest date possible. In return for supporting Russia's treaty with the Syrian government over its warm water port, demand Russia stop the flow of weapons to the regime, while using US influence to pressure Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and Turkey into stopping arms to the rebels.
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