Sep 17, 2013

Accidental Diplomacy: John Kerry, Syria, Russia and Iran

The US didn't want to attack Syria, and neither did most of their allies. No one has any appetite for war after Iraq and Afghanistan.

From my far-away Australian suburban perch, I was in favour of going into Afghanistan, but never, ever, ever supported the Iraq war. The US squandered the goodwill of the world on that awful campaign. In the decade post-9/11, I often thought how different the world would be had John Kerry won the 2004 election instead of George Bush.

It took a full decade after 9/11 - and I think also the assassination of Bin Laden - for it to finally feel like we have moved out of that immediate post-9/11 era. It's like we've just caught up now, to how the world might have been had George Bush not won the 2004 election.

Anyway, this week there has been a win, of sorts, for diplomacy. Yes, yes, I know there is still no improvement in Syria - none - and Assad is still the most evil dictator in the world right now and has to go.

But remember back in the old days, when we used to try sanctions and diplomacy before war?
Worth a shot, right?

When Assad stepped over Obama's 'red line' and gassed the Damascan suburb of Ghouta last month, the US was forced to step closer to war.

It's not right to say that no one was outraged over Syria before the chemical attack. People have short memories don't they? The world has been outraged, and has been watching, over human rights abuses and atrocities over the last 2 years (remember the massacre in Houla last year?). But even the US can't just step in and remove every vicious murderous dictator who commits an atrocity (though you can bet plans began to be made). Then last month, Syria stepped over the 'red line'.

That doesn't mean the other atrocities aren't as bad as chemical attacks. And it doesn't make the US hypocritical. The US does not go to war because it wants Middle Eastern oil, nor for humanitarian reasons.  The Iraq war was for a stupid, bad reason: the US was acting under a kind of reverse domino theory in that war - the belief they could set up a 'democracy' in the Middle East to encourage the rest of the region to follow suit (and handily get rid of arch-enemy Saddam Hussein as well). The Iraq invasion was wrong, and also completely crazy. (Although, with the Arab Spring, will George Bush's believers claim some vindication?)

But there are lines in the sand that must not be crossed, or else the world is in danger from crazed psychopathic dictators whose rampages not only cause horrible suffering inside their borders but also threaten countries outside them. It's also as much about sending messages to others (Iran) as stopping the immediate offenders.

No one can be allowed to use chemical or nuclear weapons. Period. 

Before Saturday, I thought an attack on Syria was grimly inevitable, because with Russia and China supporting them, there was not even the option of economic sanctions to use instead.

Then John Kerry was asked if there was any way an attack could be averted and he said, more or less sarcastically, well, if Syria can give up all its chemical weapons and prove it has within like, a week, then yeah, there's a chance.

And Russia, somewhat surprisingly, stepped in to broker the deal, and the deal was done.

Supposedly. We hope.

The new Cold War is temporarily on hold, and strikes on Syria (at least by people other than their president) have been averted, at least for now.

Apology/Note: I have absolutely no experience in foreign policy, war or suffering and am writing from my comfortable suburban house in a far, far away country. I have no idea what I am talking about, and I hope this does not cause anyone any offence. Just my opinion, on my personal blog!


  1. No reason to apologize, your opinions are well thought out and it is hard to disagree with most of your opinions.

    I doubt Syria will give up all their weapons, and there is no way to verify if they do, but I don't see them using them for a while at least.

  2. It's hard for any of us to know what really far as them giving up their weapons and proving it....I have a little trouble trusting that.

  3. I find it odd that America wants every other country to give up its chemical weapons and other implements of mass destruction, yet they don't and continue to manufacture them.
    I hate wars of any kind. Why can't we all just get along?

  4. There is nothing wrong with a view from an aspect of common sense. I too agreed with going into Afghanistan because it was under the auspices of the UN, but I think I was wrong and a I think it was clearly a mistake. Look at the history of the country first.



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