The decision by Obama to put off bombing Syria pending congressional approval gives the world a much needed breathing space, as we hurl toward Armageddon and possibly World War III.
In this citizen journalism image provided by Edlib News Network, ENN, Syrians search under rubble to rescue people from houses that were destroyed by a Syrian government warplane in Idlib province, August 30, 2013
Vital interests are being threatened, not least the Russians', who are determined to protect their only warm water port.
The insanity of launching cruise missiles, indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction, in order to punish the use of other weapons of mass destruction, has brought into sharp relief the utter insanity of war. If Syria is attacked by the US, as always, many civilians will die, as death rains down from the sky on innocent women, children, and noncombatants. This is not just a byproduct of war. It is war itself. It is the cruel heart of war, then and now, one hundred percent of the time.
But when you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Syria's allies Iran, Russia and China getting dragged into a wider conflict would be disastrous. Iran alone has hundreds of small boats armed with Russian made anti-ship missiles designed to sink American aircraft carriers, the N-22 Sunburn (Mach 2.1) and the N-26 Onyx (Mach 3). They also have the Chinese made C-802 which has a 364 pound warhead.
What is the silver lining to be grasped? Where can we go now from here? It is axiomatic that for great change to take place, we must be shaken from our ordinary complacency. We must take pause, look up, and see the train wreck taking shape in the distance.
The events of the last months in the Middle East may serve as such a wake-up call. We might say that, before the respite now granted, when just a week ago we were being told that "bombing might begin as soon as Thursday," the world managed to scare itself half to death.
The world has seen this before, with the Cuban Missile Crisis. We did not fall off the edge for one reason: the strong, sure grasp of one of our greatest presidents, United States President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. We have no Jack to look to now. Obama is no Jack Kennedy.
Would Jack Kennedy have bombed Syria, to stop violence? Somehow I think the answer to that question is no. Jack Kennedy stopped the invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs, stopped a plan to draw the US into war with that country by attacking our own citizens, Operation Northwoods. Jack knew that everything is not a nail, and that hammers solve precious few problems.
Therefore the people of the world themselves must lead.
Now that we are all paying attention, it may be time to propose grand solutions, of the kind which might take hold only when everyone is frightened of the future. It's time for some creative thinking.
For one set of possibilities, I humbly submit my first draft:
- For Syria, urge the parties to declare an immediate ceasefire, and launch an international investigation into the use of the chemical weapons. It is not at all clear where the weapons came from, or who used them, with some reports tracing them back to Saudi intelligence and use by the rebels. Wherever the chips fall, that is who should be charged to eventually face justice for international war crimes.
- Arrange safe haven for non-combatants in Syria, either in the country protected by a no-fly zone, or through international aid to neighboring countries which agree to shelter them. The amount of money which would be spent on million dollar cruise missiles and other munitions would probably easily cover a good chunk of this.
- Guarantee Russia's access to its warm water port, a vital economic lifeline in which it has a firm national interest. It is incredibly dangerous to back a nuclear-armed state into a desperate corner. With Russia's own ports frozen solid a good part of the year, its already shaky economy could never withstand such a blow. This would assure Putin that no one is interested in taking his queen, a dangerous ploy.
- Call for elections in Syria at the earliest date possible. In return for supporting Russia's treaty with the Syrian government over its warm water port, demand Russia stop the flow of weapons to the regime, while using US influence to pressure Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and Turkey into stopping arms to the rebels.
- Turning to the region, call on Israel to honor its 1967 borders and begin dismantling all illegal settlements, which so far have fomented the impression in the Arab world that Israel is not interested in peaceful co-existence, but expansion. All further US aid should be conditioned on this requirement, and should have been long ago.
- The US should apologize for its illegal invasion of Iraq, and as a sign of good faith begin the clean-up of the tons of depleted uranium dust which is now causing horrific levels of birth deformities among Iraqi newborns.
- Pressure the US government, and its allies, to renounce the principle of "humanitarian aggression," which has shown itself to be thoroughly bankrupt, and nothing more than a cover for the destruction of the infrastructures and populations of Muslim, Middle Eastern countries. The words of Wes Clark are thundering with a new resonance, when he related the story of a top Pentagon staffer telling him that the decision had been made by Neoconservatives to attack "seven countries in five years."
- Call for the arrest of Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski , George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, and Condoleeza Rice as the kind of international war criminals the world will no longer tolerate, to show that the United States has begun to clean up it's own house. Brzezinski for driving the CIA's meddling in Afghanistan in the Seventies, so that he could give the Russians "their own Vietnam," a crime which kicked off a chain of events which has caused unimaginable suffering for millions of Afghans. Kissinger for the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam and the carpet bombing of Cambodia. It is time to take these characters off the Sunday morning talk shows and to put them on a dock at The Hague.
- Conduct worldwide vigils and demonstrations across the globe in support of this set of principles, The Cambridge Plan for my lack of imagination, since I am sitting and writing this in Cambridge, MA.
Am I dreaming? Perhaps. Of course it is an understatement to say there are many details to be worked out. But perhaps by envisioning what the world could be, we bring it one small step closer to reality. JFK dreamed of world peace too. But the world was not ready for him. Perhaps it is more so now, almost exactly 50 years after his death.
We might not be able to accomplish all of these or even most of them, but perhaps there is power in humanity, collectively, imagining something different from what we now face. As Obama begins work persuading Congress to allow him to bomb Syria, perhaps the time has come for a Great Awakening.