Monday, September 02, 2013

Lock and Load - Again

Richard Nixon was a very private man. His suspicious nature seemed to almost ooze from him, and his staff went to great lengths to hide it.
This tendency carried over to his post-White House days, but there was one occasion when he gave us a tiny glimpse of his mind, commenting on the Watergate debacle with an answer to a question  that included the phrase "I gave them a knife...".  
I bring this up because the man who arranged these interviews was not a TV network executive or newsman, but a British TV scandal hunter named David Frost. Nixon agreed to go on because it meant a big payday. A pretty good movie ("Frost/Nixon) was made about the whole business a few years ago. Frost died over the weekend at age 74. His Nixon deal, which he never surpassed in terms of public interest, took place in the early 1970's, so he was a young man at the time.

Frequent readers may have concluded that I find much about Barack Obama to admire. He may be remembered by historians  as someone who took an almost horrific situation which had resulted from the George W. Bush "reign of error" and helped reverse things despite a difficult Congress and a sometimes suspicious public. Gosh knows, I'm not one of those awful Obama haters.
Having given this premature assessment, I now tiptoe into the near future to comment on the evident punishment about to be meted out to Syria. I, like the rest of everyone without top security clearance, can only guess at the real plan. It's not supposed to involve infantry, but will, we are told, reduce Syria's ability to repeat the sickening attack on their own people using chemical weapons, killing about 1,400 men women and children.
But unspeakable as this attack was, the question we now face is: What is the role the US can play to minimize the chances of it happening again?
At this moment, this is how I see the situation:
     Yes, we could bomb a factory or two, but even then, chemical weapons are not expensive to make, and could be bought from plenty of other countries at the right price.
     Yes, we could get lucky if the Assad regime somehow falls, but the array of possible successors is long, and contains a good number of folks who we normally consider enemies, even including Al Qaeda. Democracy for Syria is not even on the horizon, and today's ally in this volatile situation, could be tomorrow's WMD target.
     Yes, Obama is on record saying that chemical weapons use would be a "red line" to the US. On the other hand, our allies, with the exception of France, are not exactly begging to be included on the list of attackers. Must we attack just because something was said?
     Yes, Syria is on record as foreswearing chemical weapons, but shouldn't we need some kind of international endorsement to keep us from looking like the aggressor?
     Yes, we have the power to do great damage to Syria, but even a few US casualties might lead haters to insist that military action should be doubled and tripled in order that the honored dead "will not have died in vain".     
     Things we have learned to expect: Loud domestic objections to the lack of an "exit strategy", worldwide publicizing of "collateral damage" (dead civilians), loud objections from Russia, China, and others and threats against Israel, just because they all know we want them to be left alone.
I'm not sure what could be done to Syria that would make the country's power elite second guess their past decisions. I wish I could bring back those poor victims, but am left with the only sensible option - looking at the future. So far, I'm having a hard time going with President Obama.


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