“To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.”
–Winston Churchill, June 26, 1954
Before you make the mistake of taking President Obama’s most strident critics regarding the Syrian deal too seriously, ponder this: With few exceptions, those calling the Russian-American agreement to eliminate Bashar al-Assad’s nerve gas arsenal a capitulation, a sellout, and a shameful retreat also think bombing Damascus wouldn’t have been nearly enough.
Nothing short of a boots-on American invasion of Syria would have satisfied these jokers. Prominent among them is Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who views the diplomatic breakthrough as “an act of provocative weakness on America’s part.”
McCain, who has vigorously supported all nine of the nation’s last three wars on about 316 TV talk shows, is never happy unless the U.S. is attacking somebody. Only violent solutions strike him as realistic. That’s probably the single biggest reason he never became president.
Then there’s Eliot A. Cohen, founding father of the Project for a New American Century, a now-defunct Washington pressure group whose messianic schemes for a U.S. empire stretching from the Mediterranean to Afghanistan inspired the Iraq War. Featuring such luminaries as Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, to these geniuses, overthrowing Saddam Hussein was only the beginning. Next on their agenda was Iran, in case you wonder why the mad ayatollahs have been tinkering with nukes.
So anyway, just as President Obama was getting ready to ask Congress to endorse a punitive strike against Syrian chemical weapon sites, Cohen published a Washington Post column scolding Americans for their cowardice. The families of the war dead, he allowed, were entitled to their sorrow.
“But for the great mass of the American public,” he wrote “for their leaders and the elites who shape public opinion, ‘war-weariness’ is unearned cant, unworthy of a serious nation and dangerous in a violent world…Americans can change the channel if they find the images too disturbing.”
Got that citizens? Shut up, pay your taxes and avert your eyes.
Next the Obama administration pulled a large Russian rabbit out of its hat, leaving the neocons feeling foolish. For all the hugger-mugger about “red lines” and the White House’s odd decision to position a naval task force within striking range of Damascus before deciding to ask congressional permission, the end result was nevertheless remarkable.
Clumsy? Definitely. But it’s not a Bruce Willis movie; it’s a foreign policy.