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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Syria - President Obama Found the Best Balance

President Obama got the diplomatic/force fulcrum balance right.  

Indeed, Obama may eventually get an A for handling the Syrian chemical weapons crises.  It's too soon to tell and, certainly, the President won't have a good report card from suffering Syrians, who are desperately waiting for US intervention against their oppressive President Assad. But, history will give President Obama an A for the diplomacy of restraint, while he stood up for those killed in genocide. Although Syrian Rebels craved a US military response, the best outcome is the destruction of all chemical weapons.

Great leadership requires confidence in times of crises, coupled with the ability to engage in risk taking.  President Obama displayed both characteristics when he decided to hold Syria's President Bashar al Assad accountable for the genocide of over one thousand civilians on August 21, 2013, as a result of his government attacking them with Sarin gas, while they slept.  Assad deserved an attack by American cruise missiles to retaliate on behalf of the dead innocents.   In fact, Assad still deserves to experience the terror or an attack. Nevertheless, sometimes, calculated restraint is a stronger weapon than force, especially if use of military intervention is still, meaningfully, an alternative.

Along the timetable of this crisis, President Obama walked a precariously difficult decision making path, with very little, if any, political safety net. Nevertheless, he pushed the world to the brink of expecting a US attack on Syria, to hold Assad accountable for using deadly chemical weapons to kill civilians in a "chemical massacre". 

Meanwhile, Obama was accused of being too aggressive on the left, and not forceful enough from the right, while the American people screeched "stop!", to our Congress, who didn't have paid lobbyists to intervene on behalf of the dead Syrian civilians.  Frankly, Americans are, justifiably, just plain sick and tired of getting involved in more wars, when our national security isn't threatened, in spite of proof that innocent people were slaughtered somewhere else.  

At any point in the Syrian crisis, the situation could have catastrophically fallen apart. Then, unexpectedly,  Russian President Vladimir Putin leaped at an opportunity to appear like a peacemaking visionary, a political savior, to avert a deteriorating crisis. This scenario was a "made for Putin" epic opportunity.  Putin made a surprise offer to broker a deal with Assad, for the purpose of destroying the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal.  (A question in my mind is if Putin ever consulted Assad before he made the diplomatic rescue attempt.) At this point, a "destroy the chemical weapons" deal is nearly accomplished, because of Secretary of State Kerry's diplomatic expertise, well demonstrated in the mix of the drama.

So, the world waits to see if Obama's balance of force, mixed with the diplomacy of our unlikely ally in Russian President Putin, can succeed.  It's not unlike walking across the Grand Canyon on a tight rope.  It's been successfully done, albeit with enormous risk.  

At this point, President Obama's leadership and Secretary of State Kerry's quick negotiating under pressure are diplomatic successes. They get A's.

But, the outcome is still unknown, like walking only half way across the Grand Canyon on a tight rope.

Aerial risk walker Nek Wallenda had confidence he could cross the Grand Canyon on a tight rope, in a death defying act of courage, Nevertheless, with all his confidence, Willenda didn't know, with 100 percent certainty, whether or not he could really do it, without falling. Anything could have happened including the remote risk of the rope breaking or a sudden gust of wind sweeping him into the abyss.  But, Wallenda was successful. He had confidence. He knew he could do it and he did do it. 

President Obama had the confidence he needed to put his trust in diplomacy, rather than force, to prevent President Assad from using chemical weapons against anybody else, including American military forces.  The world also knows, as a result of the US-Russian diplomacy, how the world's biggest super powers won't tolerate chemical weapons, period!

There's no way the Russians and President Putin could have pressured Syrian President Assad to agree to a ban on chemical weapons, without US President Obama's pressure. Anyone who believes President Putin and President Assad would agree to destroy the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal without the US threat of force is, frankly, delusional.  

Nevertheless, my sympathies continue to be with Syrian civilians who were put to death in their sleep by Sarin poison gas, because of Assad's ambition to remain in power.  My support for a targeted military intervention against Assad continues, because he deserves to be held accountable for his evil genocide of civilians.  Unfortunately, however, I also believe Syria and the world will be better served if Assad destroys his chemical weapons arsenal.  It's the most desirable and humane outcome, if it is achieved.
Clearly, Assad would never have considered admitting his country even had chemical weapons, without the tragic chemical massacred martyrs. They deserve retribution and Assad must be held accountable.  Assad's tight rope toward power and control was cut when he supported the decision to kill civilians with Sarin gas.  

President Obama found the right diplomatic groove to avert an international crises, even in the face of a genocide of civilians. President Assad, on the other hand, is falling into an abyss of evil doers, like Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein.

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