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Syria: What The Hell Is Going On?

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I don't know how others feel, but I've been whipped around by all the events relating to Syria. I get dizzy trying to figure it out. Here are a few incoherent thoughts, and I'd like to know other people's takes. Events have truly been strange--terrifying, yet wonderful too.

Vlad the Putin publishes a brilliant Op Ed in the NY Times deftly critiquing US policy and US exceptionalism (finally, someone calls this into question), and stating pretty flatly that an attack on Syria would violate international law. As someone who has written for a living, I just want to say that Putin's speechwriter needs to get a huge bonus. What a terrific job. And I'm glad that Putin is making the right move, even if it could be for the wrong reasons.

Meanwhile, Putin voices my opinion that the gassing attack seems like a provocation--it's so stupid, especially with UN inspectors there. However, I've learned to never underestimate the stupidity and arrogance of autocrats--so Assad is totally capable of doing it. He's a cruel tyrant--but al-Qaeda and al-Nusra are no sweethearts either. Putin calls it right: Neither side is fighting for democracy. By the way, ordinary Syrians die right and left.

Did Obama get swallowed by a giant NeoCon Boa Constrictor? Is this the collapse of liberal interventionists and hard-core NeoCons into one throbbing blob of militarism? Is this really a strike against Iran--and is this why Israel is quietly pushing for the attack? Sheldon Adelson just offered any help (money) to persuade Congress to vote to bomb. That's a good indication of what his buddy Netanyahu wants. Is this a tactic to get Iran to seriously negotiate? Or to blow up the world?

How did Obama spin into war mode? And then how did he make an unprecedented (and I think brilliant) move to ask for Congressional approval? Amazing--especially if he actually abides by a No vote, as Cameron did. Going to Congress may be the one lasting move here, a wonderful tactic to assert militarism while checking it at the same time.

Now there are reports of Tea Party folks demonstrating with leftists against the war--which is also unprecedented, each side with its own analysis (creating real politics in the form of drastic coalitions uniting vastly different sides). This is also creating splits in the two parties, especially the Republicans. The National Security Corporate State Republicans want to bomb, but their grassroots libertarian folks don't want another war. Again, this may be for the wrong reasons ("let them Muslims kill each other"), but it's still a good outcome. Can it be that anti-war sentiment is so deep that it can actually stymie the imperial presidency?

Was the whole deal with Russia orchestrated, or serendipity? Did Kerry simply bumble into making a deal? Did Obama outwit the War Party by feinting to war and then backing off for peace? Will a ceasefire in Syria come of all this?

WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?

 

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Hilton Obenzinger is the author of "American Palestine: Melville, Twain and the Holy Land Mania" (Princeton), among many other books of criticism, poetry and fiction, and the recipient of the American Book Award. His most recent book is the (more...)
 

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