In the midst of President Obama’s reckless push for war—a strategically incompetent, useless and nonsensical attack on Syria—the International Crisis Group has put forth a useful counterpoint, namely, a path toward a diplomatic solution. However remote that might be, at this stage of the game, it’s the only way out, and it’s good that it’s been developed by an establishment organization whose leadership includes many former US and foreign diplomats
But it’s too late, since Obama—with the able assistance of the Israel lobby, pro-war neoconservatives, and hawks of all kinds (liberal and conservative)—is all but assured of getting Congress to approve his wrath-of-God strike. Obama assures the public and Congress that his aims in attacking Syria are limited, and that he isn’t seeking regime change in Syria, but I don’t believe that for a second. You’ll recall that in March 2003 President George W. Bush, who at least had the crazed courage to declare his intent of forcible regime change in Iraq, jumped his own gun by launching a strike at Baghdad a day or two before the war officially began because the United States had intelligence, faulty as it turned out, that Saddam Hussein was in a specific location in the Iraqi capital. I expect that today the crack US intelligence spotters are once again hoping that they can kill President Bashar al-Assad via a cruise missile strike, thus decapitating the regime.
For Assad’s sake, let’s hope that his elegant and sophisticated wife, who—before it was decided by the powers-that-be that Assad was worse than Hitler was profiled by Vogue—has squirreled away a secret cellphone on which to call her family, since undoubtedly if the CIA doesn’t have the number to trace her location using it, Vogue’s helpful, national security–minded editors will happily provide it to the agency.
Trying its best to remind Obama and the world that might-makes-right isn’t the best solution in Syria and that the top priority is to remember to do what’s best for the people of Syria, the International Crisis Group says:
Assuming the US Congress authorizes them, Washington (together with some allies) soon will launch military strikes against Syrian regime targets. If so, it will have taken such action for reasons largely divorced from the interests of the Syrian people. The administration has cited the need to punish, deter and prevent use of chemical weapons—a defensible goal, though Syrians have suffered from far deadlier mass atrocities during the course of the conflict without this prompting much collective action in their defence. The administration also refers to the need, given President Obama’s asserted “redline” against use of chemical weapons, to protect Washington’s credibility—again an understandable objective though unlikely to resonate much with Syrians. Quite apart from talk of outrage, deterrence and restoring U.S. credibility, the priority must be the welfare of the Syrian people. Whether or not military strikes are ordered, this only can be achieved through imposition of a sustained ceasefire and widely accepted political transition.
The ICG outlines a six-step peace plan for Syria that centers on the idea of a Geneva II conference cosponsored by the United States and Russia, and including Iran. That, you’ll recall, was an idea that Secretary of State John Kerry, now a moralistic, screeching hawk, and his counterpart, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, developed in May. Says ICG:
Whether or not the U.S. chooses to launch a military offensive, its responsibility should be to try to optimise chances of a diplomatic breakthrough. This requires a two-fold effort lacking to date: developing a realistic compromise political offer as well as genuinely reaching out to both Russia and Iran in a manner capable of eliciting their interest—rather than investing in a prolonged conflict that has a seemingly bottomless capacity to escalate.
If Obama’s idea in bombing Syria isn’t to kill Assad and topple the regime, then it makes not a shred of sense at all, as Simon Jenkins says in The Guardian:
The reason a missile attack on Syria is proving so unpopular on both sides of the Atlantic has nothing to do with neoimperial hubris. The reason is that it is a bad idea. “Punishing” a dictator for killing his own people by simply killing more of his own people seems beyond cruel. It seems stupid. It leads nowhere.
Well, actually it could lead somewhere, namely, to a widely expanded war.