As I lie here waiting for the gurney to take me into the operating room and reading the hundreds of kind letters from so many of you, I hope to fill in your time with one more article.
Focus is everything — knowing what the central problem is, and dealing with it. Here I want to discuss three articles that I basically agree with to point out how they miss the key issue and thus are somewhat misleading. I’m glad to see these three articles being published, but it’s a case of — to quote Lenin — two steps forward, one step back.
First, the Washington Post published an editorial titled “The time for patience in Syria is over.” It criticizes “America’s long paralysis in responding to the conflict in Syria,” pointing out that the war and horrific bloodshed is escalating. And it concludes:
President Obama called on [President Bashar al-] Assad to leave office, a proper reaction to the brutality. But Mr. Obama has not backed his words with actions that might help them come true.
It isn’t every day that a mass media organ criticizes Obama. Yet there are two problems. One is that the measures the newspaper proposes are very much out of date:
No one is arguing for a Libyan-style intervention into Syria at this point. But the United States and its NATO allies could begin contingency planning for a no-fly zone, now that Mr. Assad is deploying aircraft against the opposition. Instead of providing only non-lethal support, such as medical supplies and communications gear, America could help supply weapons to the outgunned opposition fighters. It could work with Turkey and other allies to set up havens for them.
Since the opposition has been asking for a “no-fly zone” for about six months, arguing that the NATO allies “could begin contingency planning” for one isn’t exactly a bold measure. Moreover, while the United States is only directly “providing only non-lethal support,” it is facilitating the supply of lethal weapons by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. And third, there are already safe havens for the opposition fighters in Turkey.
So none of those three ideas are decisive or even highly relevant. The key point is mentioned in passing in another passage, calling on the United States “ … [t]o get a better read on opposition forces and to encourage those less inclined toward sectarianism.”
Yet this is the central issue!