Tempting Congress onto the Tightrope
President Obama's "maneuver" to deliver the prospect of Syrian intervention to the Congress has "delivered back" the predictable maelstrom of influence bartering, religion, politics and a motley collection of haphazard preconceptions carefully crafted for the "convenience" of the American public. The inescapable conclusion materializing from the thing's progress so far is not promising.
The scope and scale of the original plan for a surgical, limited strike to deter the regime from further chemical weapons attacks has been transformed into an unworkable, "committee driven" hodge podge which seems destined to enjoy an even shakier possibility of success in the "real world" than even the admittedly shaky policy in its original, politically unadulterated form.
Immediately sacrificing any possibility for progress was an easy price for the recalcitrant Democrats, Obama-hating Republicans, make-do isolationists and the remaining insecure politicians of either party to embrace given the poll numbers and well designed public hostility to the plan. Still, "those in the know" continue to suggest that the Congress will -- in the end -- agree to some sort of action, albeit, by the time they have satisfied all the paralyzing fears among the bodies, the result may be anything but what was initially intended.
So, what exactly will the President do with the surviving tatters which finally make it back to the Oval Office? One of the most "upsetting" outcomes already presented is that, regardless of the condition of the thing by then, Obama will simply proceed under full legal cover of the Constitution to execute his duties as Commander in Chief.
While handing the question over to the uncertain priorities of Congress was one of the most widely publicised acts the President has taken in his second term, it proposes a model for an even more extravagant solicitation of public will -- except this time, world wide.
Go see Putin.
Have a meeting.
Invite the President of the Russian Federation to a "summit meeting" on the Syrian crisis, perhaps in, say, Turkey or Jordan. Further, make this invitation extremely public.
Very publicly pronounce that the purpose of the summit is to formulate some type of cooperative plan upon which both parties might agree which will resolve the Sarin gas problem without the military strike. President Putin has openly stated that he remains unconvinced that the Assad regime actually conducted the attack.
Here is an excerpt from an Associated Press/Channel One interview with the Russian President.
Situation in Syria
Associated Press: Thank you very much for inviting us to your house and finding time to answer a few questions for our large audience.
A G20 summit will take place this week. This will be very interesting. I would like to start with Syria. President Obama said he would wait for Congress to approve an operation in Syria. What do you think about the alleged use of chemical weapons there? And what do you think needs to be done in this respect?
Vladimir Putin: We can’t say for sure what happened. We think we should at least wait for the UN inspectors to give their report. We don’t have any evidence showing that it was the regular army of the Syrian government that used those chemicals. We don’t even know at this point if those were chemical weapons or just some hazardous chemicals). Besides, as I said elsewhere, we think it would be totally absurd for the regular government forces to use banned chemicals weapons in a situation where they have encircled the so-called ‘rebels’ in certain areas and basically are about to finish them off. They are fully aware of the fact that such a step would mean sanctions, including even the use of military force. This is just absurd. It doesn’t make any sense. That’s the first point.
Second, we think that if someone has evidence proving that chemical weapons have been used and that it was the regular army that used them, they should present this evidence to the UN Security Council – to the inspectors and to the Security Council. And this evidence has to be compelling. It should not be just hearsay, just some conversations intercepted by the intelligence service. Even in the US, some experts think the evidence presented by the administration is not compelling. It is possible that the opposition staged a provocation in order to give their patrons an excuse for a military intervention.
AP: We saw video records of children suffering from poisoning. Have you seen those videos? What’s your response?
V. Putin: The videos you’re referring to of children who had allegedly been killed in this chemical attack are just horrific. However the question is, who did it, what exactly was done, and whose fault was it? Those videos don’t answer these questions. There’s an opinion that this compilation was made by a group of militants who as both the US Administration and we know are associated with Al-Qaeda. We also know that they have always been notoriously ruthless.
Still I’d like to point out that there are no parents, women or medical personnel in those pictures, which you would have noticed at a closer look. Who are those people, and what really happened there? This question remains open. Certainly, those pictures are just hideous, but they don’t prove anyone guilty. This incident obviously has to be investigated. We would like to know who was responsible for these atrocities.
AP: What would Russia’s position be if you became convinced that the chemical attack was launched by the Syrian government? Would you agree to military action?
V. Putin: I won’t rule this out. But let me draw your attention to one absolutely essential thing (principle circumstance). Under international law the only body that can authorize using weapons against a sovereign state is the UN Security Council. Any other reasons and methods to justify the use of force against an independent and sovereign state are unacceptable and they can be seen as nothing but aggression.
AP: I see your reasoning in this regard. But I do wonder, when there is a question mark about who committed these crimes, whether Russia should distance itself from the Assad government and maybe hold up its shipments of arms?
V. Putin: We will not come up with a response unless we get the exact information on who committed these crimes. Speculating and rushing to promise we will do a certain thing would be totally wrong. You don’t do that in politics. But let me assure you that we will take a compelling stand, as we firmly believe that the use of weapons of mass destruction is a crime.
But there is also another question. If there is evidence that it’s the militants that have been using WMD, what will the US do to them? What will these sponsors do? Will they stop weapons supplies? Will they start hostilities against the militants?
AP: I think John Kerry said that anyone who stands by when these crimes are done will have to answer to history. I’m sure that you and Russia and the US would be included in that. But are you afraid that you may be seen today as standing by a regime that is oppressing and committing crimes? Is there a danger that you will be seen as a protector of this government?
V. Putin: We are not defending the current Syrian government. We are defending other things entirely. We are defending the principles and norms of international law. We are defending the current world order. We are defending the rule that even a possibility of using force must be discussed within the framework of existing world order and international law. This is what we are defending. This is the absolute value. When decisions concerning the use of force are made outside the UN and the Security Council, it raises a concern that such illegal actions could be taken against any country under any pretext.
You’ve just said that Mr. Kerry believes that it was Assad’s forces that used chemical weapons, but the secretary of state in Mr. Bush’s administration was trying to convince the international community that Iraq had chemical weapons in a similar fashion. He even showed us a test tube with white powder in it. The argument turned out to be invalid, but a military operation was conducted based on it – a military operation many in the US now call a mistake. Have we forgotten that? Are we proceeding from the assumption that new mistakes are so easy to avoid? I assure you, it is not so. Everyone remembers what happened, and they take it into account when making their decisions.
AP: As I understand, you don’t believe the evidence that has been offered so far is convincing. What would it take to convince you?
V. Putin: We would be convinced by a detailed investigation and by direct evidence of who exactly used chemical weapons and what substances were used. Then we’ll be ready to take decisive and serious action.
Channel 1: Vladimir Vladimirovich, is Russia still fulfilling weapons contracts signed with Syria?
V. Putin: Yes, of course. We are doing this because we believe that we are working with the legitimate government and we are violating neither international law nor our obligations. The UN has not imposed any restrictions on the export of weapons to Syria. We feel so bad that Syrian militants have been receiving weapons without any restrictions from the very first day of this conflict, despite the fact that it is against international law to supply weapons to any party engaged in a military conflict.
[MeanMesa note: Read the entire interview here. Although it is rather long, the gravity of the present moment makes it worthwhile.]
Directly behind these statements we find the possibility for a Syrian solution.
MeanMesa claims no reasonable or credible standing to assert whether or not President Putin was speaking with sincerity or with duplicity, but the outcome for the planned strike may as well be shared with all the players. In fact, there have been highly visible efforts to bring in additional parties in an attempt to validate the military action, so why not bring in the Russian Federation?
|Obama at work (image source)|
Any effort sponsored by both Presidents Obama and Putin to "get to the facts" of the Sarin attacks would almost certainly be very successful. With Russian cooperation and sponsorship the heretofore closed Syrian estate would be opened for a credible investigation. With the very credible threat of US military intervention by order of the US Constitutional Commander in Chief -- with or without assent from the Congressional "clown car" -- the terms and, ultimately, the compliance with such an investigation would be destined for such scrutiny as to be unavoidably credible.
The UN inspectors have already certified that Sarin was, in fact, the agent used in the attack. President Obama is confident that the attack was perpetrated by the regime. President Putin seems equally confident that it was perpetrated by the opposition forces. Both Presidents have expressed an eagerness to be able to respond to the facts.
Why are we warming up the Tomahawks while such an attractive alternative may be so close at hand?
Putting All the Cards on the Table
Now, of course, President Putin might refuse to attend the summit, but such a refusal would weigh heavily on a Russian politician MeanMesa has already characterized as Raskolnikov. [Syria: Putin as Raskolnikov ]
However, presuming that the Russian agrees to "summit" with Obama, the resulting investigation would penetrate much more deeply than the limited mission assigned to the UN staff. It could easily include a serious look at precisely who ordered the strike, and, perhaps, even include the origin of those orders.
Immediacy is always a problem with "negotiated proposals" for action, but here the Americans can offer the unavoidable motivation of the targeted missiles aboard the near by US Mediterranean fleet. With or without Congressional approval the launch of those missiles is no longer theoretical or conditional -- it could be ordered and accomplished within minutes, and both Presidents know it.
Perhaps the most irritating of the narcotic "candy canes" so cravenly designed to replace any actual thought in the minds of the now hyper vigilant American public is the pervasive "no good options," a sort of "damned if you do, and damned if you don't" placebo for the mindless hordes of -- and suddenly not only militarized, but promoted -- civilian "Generals."
Well, MeanMesa thinks this is a good option.
The crisis calls out for bravery and leadership -- both qualities we have seen in our President. It's clearly time to "break the spell."
MeanMesa has posted a great deal on the growing Syria conflict. Have a look at the constantly developing thoughts posted on this blog concerning the subject.Russia, China, Syria: Disgracing Great and Noble Revolutions
Syria in September: The Perfect Mousetrap
War in Syria
John McCain in Syria
Syria Part One: The Problem
Syria, Obama and the US Congress: Managing the Domestic Side of Intervention
A Plan for Post Assad Syria
MeanMesa's compliments to the President