Belmont Club

Gelding the Lily

Foreign Policy describes “How Russia Neutered Obama’s Chemical Weapons Response”. Moscow apparently foiled his plan to refer the recent Syrian chemical weapons incident to the UN.

An effort by the Obama administration to reinforce the powers of U.N. chemical weapons inspectors in Syria this evening foundered in the face of Russian and Chinese opposition in the U.N. Security Council, according to council diplomats.

Seizing on rebel claims that Syrian authorities massacred hundreds of civilians by firing chemically-laced rockets onto a Damascus suburb, the United States joined Britain and France in calling for an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council to rally international support for an investigation into the incident. The three western powers also wrote a letter to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki moon, signed by 32 other governments, calling for an urgent investigation. But the efforts failed to result in anything other than a tepid statement from the Security Council thanks to some final edits by the Russians and Chinese.

The Obama administration’s goal was to have a U.N. chemical weapons team, which was already in Syria to investigate other chemical weapons allegations, launch a probe into the new allegations. That team, headed by Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom, arrived in Damascus on Sunday.

But if Russia’s goal was to neuter Obama perhaps they should let him continue undisturbed down  UN lane. The United Nations is the Hotel California of World Problems. You can check things in anytime you please. But nothing ever leaves.

Still many are outraged at the images emerging from Syria. The Daily Mail’s commenters are wringing their hands over the massacre of hundreds, possibly thousands of people, many of whom are children. One commenter writes: “THIS HAS TO STOP NOW……THOSE POOR CHILDREN DID NOT DESERVE THEIR LITTLE LIVES TO END LIKE THIS.”

And who’s going to stop Assad? Not the British Army which grows smaller every year.  “As part of the plans, the British Army will be reduced by 23 regular units, and by 2018 will number 82,000 regulars and 30,000 reservists.[3] In addition, the number of Challenger 2 tanks will be cut by 40% to an estimated number of just over 200, and the number of AS-90 self-propelled guns will be cut 35% to an estimated 87.” Soon you’ll have to look for it with a magnifying glass.

Not the Royal Navy, which is building two new aircraft carriers, one of which goes direct to storage, called “extended readiness”, because there isn’t enough money to operate the two as yet unbuilt ships together.

No, what really seems meant by the demand that “THIS HAS TO STOP NOW” is: America, stop it for us please. Send in the SEALs and the drones. Send in waves of Marines over the beach and show them the what for!  But. But. But if you put one foot wrong then we’ll march in front the US embassy to condemn it. We’ll give aid and comfort to those who leak military secrets and call them heroes. We’ll give asylum to anyone who actually refuses to pull the trigger. Because when you come to it, nobody ever realized that the demand “THIS HAS TO STOP NOW” means going to exotic foreign places and killing people.

Unfortunately it does mean that.

Well nobody said a hegemon’s life was easy. If the hegemon doesn’t stop the massacre it’s complicit in a war crime. If it does stop a massacre it’s killed people in an illegal war. So maybe Obama, despite everything, really was right. The only thing left to do is let the UN look into it.

Unfortunately the US may have as little choice in the matter as a fire brigade in the middle of a five alarm conflagration. If things get bad enough in the Middle East … well the great lesson of World War 2 is that you may not be interested in war, but war may be interested in you. America tried isolationism and neutrality as things went south in the late 1930s. We all know how that worked out.

The fundamental dilemma is always act now or act later. Enough bad people out there means you have to act sometime. The whole point of statesmanship is not whether ever to act, but when to act; how to keep the fires from growing, surely. But putting out fires have been an unfortunate part of life ever since Cain killed Abel.

Thus the President’s job is not to wish for war not to happen — everyone must wish to avoid it — but to be ready in the event it can’t be avoided. But he’s done almost exactly the reverse:  talked big about Red Lines while sending the troops as far away as is logistically possible to Afghanistan, where the Armed Forces literally has to pay an exit fee to Pakistan to withdraw; cut the Armed Forces down to the bone and declared the war on terror over, thus causing the fires that were banked to flare up again. Maybe he forgot that drawing Red Lines means you have to do something about them if they’re crossed.

But it is not inconceivable the President will soon be on TV demanding “THIS HAS TO STOP NOW” without quite realizing that he is really talking to himself. Harry Truman used to have a sign in the Oval Office saying, “the buck stops here”. Unfortunately, as Clark Judge at US News noted, as far as the President is concerned, “the buck stops somewhere else.”

Where does the buck stop this time? Well if the UN is out it means that we all click the dislike button of Assad’s Facebook page. The sophisticated publics of the world have long clamored for an end to American power. They have demanded an end to US dominance. Well now they are about to get exactly what they want at the hands of the US President they so devoutly wished for.

So this is it…
This is what I wished for
Just isn’t how I envisioned it…

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