"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”: In The End However, History Will Remember Where We End Up

In a political environment that stays thirsty for clear winners and losers and operates on a stopwatch, the Syrian debate hasn’t satisfied, and is unlikely to.

This debate is too serious to be subjected to the rules of Washington’s game, even as it must be conducted by its gamesmen.

It has broken down the normal tribalism of left-right, liberal-conservative constructs, and mixed folks into maddeningly contradictory coalitions.

On one side are some of President Obama’s staunchest supporters, who are always convinced that he’s the smartest man in the room, that he’s always playing chess when others are playing checkers.

As someone tweeted to me on Tuesday night, “I support my President and ANY decisions he makes.” She continued, “we elected him to do a job so we must pray for his discernment and allow him to do it.”

For many like this woman, their faith in Obama is resolute and unshakable. But, they have found kinship with conservative, hard-line war hawks who see an opportunity to alter the Syrian civil war and place another imperial imprint on the region. Their thirst for intervention will never be sated. Their trigger finger is always itchy. Their appetite for expansion knows no bounds.

This is the might-makes-right crowd.

On this side are also those who are simply convinced of the administration’s argument: that Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons on his own people and that he should be punished, not only for moral reasons but to ensure our own national security.

And then there are people who generally support the president’s policies but feel, as a matter of principle — and perhaps provincial interest — that they simply cannot support his call to arms.

For them, this is not about an opposition to Obama the man, but to a military instinct.

And many of them seem to have reconciled their support for the president with their resistance to this action. That may help to explain why opposition to military action in Syria is overwhelming but, according to a Gallup report released Tuesday, Obama’s personal approval rating, as well as approval of his foreign affairs policies, remain relatively unchanged.

The truly anti-war-inclined, many of them true liberals, are so exhausted by our current and recent forays that they can’t even fathom another.

And they have real concerns. Would a United States military action be legal without a United Nations resolution? How do we ensure that dropping bombs won’t be tantamount to whacking the hornets’ nest, setting in motion painful repercussions that we cannot foresee? What to make of this Goldilocks bombing strategy of not-too-little, not-too-much but just enough? How is such a thing calibrated? And why bomb at all if we plan to leave Bashar Assad in power?

This genuine anti-war-in-Syria crowd finds itself in the odd company of the pro-war-on-Obama crowd. The latter will never be satisfied with anything this president does or how he does it. The president’s very presence irritates like a rock in a shoe.

For many of these folks, everything is a bargaining chip and all roads lead to Benghazi.

On Sunday, Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican, said:

“One of the problems with all of this focus on Syria is it’s missing the ball from what we should be focused on, which is the grave threat from radical Islamic terrorism. I mean, just this week is the one-year anniversary of the attack on Benghazi.”

With Benghazi, Republicans are like a dog with a bone.

So into this crazy, mixed-up world of odd alliances steps the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, with a proposal — whether serious or not only time will tell — to defuse the situation by creating an even odder alliance: the Russians persuade the Syrians to declare and surrender their chemical weapons to international monitors in order to prevent American military action.

Under this new deal, we’d all be partners of a sort, working toward a common goal. And ironically, such a deal will most likely require boots on the ground in order to guard weapons inspectors and secure weapons, something that President Obama promised wouldn’t happen if Congress gave him authorization to bomb.

Now, personally, I don’t trust Russia’s Putin or Syria’s Assad any further than I could throw them, and the logistics of the Russian plan seem nearly impossible. Though at least America can now say that it has tried to pursue a diplomatic option before having to pursue a military one.

In the end, history will remember where we end up much more than how we got there. But, history takes time.

The fact that immense power should require immense patience seems to satisfy very few. We are an all-or-nothing culture, watching a get-it-over-quick clock. We dislike complexity, or ambiguity, or sophistication.

So, when the president offered no one-line take-away in his address to the nation on Tuesday, many of those already on the fence were left there with a one-word reflection: ambivalence.


By: Charles M. Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, September 11, 2013

September 13, 2013 - Posted by | Syria | , , , , , , , ,

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