For the last few days, since Secretary Kerry made an offhand remark and Russia then obtained a quick approval from Assad to comply with the Kerry idea–surrender chemical weapons to international control–since then, it seems most media focus has been on whether the US and Obama “lost face” by no longer remaining in full control of the direction of resolution.
It seems to us that this focus is ridiculous. Many, especially US Republican Congress members as well as political commentators, take the position that we have somehow “lost something” in our world leadership by allowing Putin to have a significant hand in the resolution of the problem.
Our view is that the focus should be on effective non-military resolution of the Syrian civil war. It doesn’t really matter whether it is Russia or Zambia or the US who lead a successful negotiation to effect some progress toward resolution of this human catastrophe. If the US or Obama make threats and do not follow up on them, that is not a catastrophe. It’s not a great idea to do that repeatedly, but the US has military might greater than the next dozen nations combined, and has far superior economic might to that of Russia, China, the EU or any other group of any consequence. As to the third element of unipolar superiority, soft or diplomatic power, there is not any significant international support for Russia, China or any other group as offering a comprehensively more appealing ideology. Furthermore, it’s appropriate and in the interest of world peace for the US to step back wherever possible and let other nations take leadership roles in affairs of international conflict. This is the right way to develop world cooperation–not for the US to demand leadership in everything–that breeds hatred and enmity.
Our view is that while chemical weapons are bad, they’re really not so far beyond many other forms of killing of civilians. All forms are bad. Assad should leave. However, it is not our conflict. We have thoroughly determined that even our military superiority does not translate to quick wins in foreign wars, and that even the dictatorship is removed, there is no assurance the succession is better–e.g., Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt.
Diplomatic solution is the only right answer. We are not the policeman of the world.
Again, I can warn you repeatedly. I can choose not to take action if you don’t comply. I can ultimately choose to punish you severely if I am clearly superior (which the US is). As long as I am clearly superior, my failure to punish you (or to state it differently, my choice of giving you another chance and another chance) does not lead everyone else in the world to decide they can do whatever they want. There are multiple controlling factors on such behaviors, most of the local to the given country. It’s not as if numerous nations of the world are constrained from vast humanitarian violations by the proof that when the US warns, it always punishes misbehavior immediately. That’s entirely ridiculous and entirely political hogwash intended to try to find fault with our existing administration.
It’s massive, entirely massive, that we have had a President who has consistently stretched and stretched to find ways to delay and avoid engaging us in the conflicts far from our shores–for a change. This is a mark of true and strong leadership–far more so than a macho call ordering the US military machine back into engagements we can never win.