It is unlikely that American leaders, from the State Department to the White House to the Pentagon will seize the Syria-opportunity as a turning point in helping bring calm and stability to the Middle East. Obama failed miserably during his first term to get Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiating table, forcefully if needed be; for Israel in general, and Benjamin Netanyahu in particular, possesses a predatory level of influence in the American political scene. But, will an enlightened Obama now on his second and final term in office fall off his horse on his way to Damascus… and get a new vision on America’s role in the Middle East and, hopefully, beyond that region?
Imperialistic socio-political currents in the US, promoted by the leadership of both ruling political parties, have made sure since the end of the Cold War that the United Nations is ridiculed and maligned in an obscene way, the greater its denigration and low status among the American citizenry, the greater satisfaction and sense of power (safety) in Americans – a feeling that permeated even to the ranks of people well-educated and otherwise reasonable moral principles. Jingoism is not exclusive to the lower classes or the uneducated. Therefore, at least these days, American foreign policy cannot be seen as rubbing elbows with a nobody UN… a political death sentence to any leader in the US whether Republican or Democrat regardless what political office that politician occupies or the strategic wisdom in using that world institution.
Then, now that the US is unable to go it alone, financially and/or militarily, where the true colors in our resources, our showing that the Emperor is not wearing any clothes, what are we to do to maintain at least a vestige of that declining prestige? China and Russia are two nations that Americans accept, if not fear, at “almost” equal footing, not realizing that there might be a half dozen more nations in the wings waiting to challenge our dominance in different points around the world. And, in this particular unraveling situation in Syria, no better partner to have, no better co-benefactor to help bring peace to the entire region than Russia. In fact, this could be made as the perfect opportunity to engage the many different factions of the Arab World, Iran and Israel to sit at a non-exclusionary table where all can talk, exert their grievances and claims… all under the mediating eye and counsel of a joint American-Russian effort.
Russia, Iran and several Arab nations maintain commercial and ideological ties to either Assad’s government in Syria, or to the forces now trying to depose that government in a devastating civil war where the only victor will turn out to be man’s inhumanity to man. Russia and the US, jointly, could change all that with a plan of action that would at an early date also enlist the help of Iran, representation from the two leading factions in the Arab/Muslim religious world (Sunni and Shiite)… and, yes, Israel, a nation that commercially, culturally and land-cohabiting should be part of that region.
A preliminary and urgent meeting of the minds between the US and Russia is a must if a holocaustic disaster is to be averted in the possible use of WMD; this time real – unlike the deceiving rhetoric given by George W. Bush in his criminal invasion of Iraq. Whether the WMD now in the hands of the Syrian military are used by them against the anti-Assad forces –and likely civilian population categorized as collateral damage, or fall in the hands of some terrorist group for later use, only immediate action by US-Russia in a joint communiqué will turn the situation around and prevent a holocaust. Neither the United States nor Russia has by itself the moral stature, nor the combined influence with all groups involved in the civil war. But jointly, particularly if Arab nations are engaged in the peace effort simultaneously, this US-Russia move could prove invaluable in casting out fear and belligerence in the Middle East… as Iran and Israel become participants in a true regional peace. And both the United States and Russia would find an upsurge in prestige… and a thankful population in the Middle East.
But the question remains… will Barack Obama prove to be another Paul of Tarsus?