Monday, April 29, 2013

They Still Don't Get It!

Maybe there was a time when the United States was so preeminent that the world would do our bidding and we had the power to control events overseas.  Maybe.  But even if that were so, perhaps in the years immediately following World War II, that was a long time ago and it sure as hell ain’t true today.

Recent examples are easy to find.  We would get rid of the bad guys and put Iraq on the road to democracy.  Reality:  Iraq is in the early stages of a bloody Shi’a/Sunni civil war and we are helpless to do anything about it.  We would do the same for Afghanistan and get rid of terrorists in the process.  Reality:  When we leave in 2014 our legacy will be a corrupt, violent, divided country with the Taliban in the ascendency and we are helpless to do anything about it.

Now there is a clamor from hawks on the right to step in and control events in Syria.  Do something, they say.  Anything.  Just stop doing nothing.  Their assumption is that if we just flex our muscles or say the right things we can turn the situation around.  Reality:  We still don’t get it.  The rebels who would be peaceful democrats are in the minority.  More and more the rebels lean to an Al-Qaeda approach.

Pressure and support from the outside is still possible.  But to think that if only the United States would lead the way others would follow is a pipedream.  It will take a collaborative effort by the Arab League, the European Union, Turkey, Russia and others to change the dynamics in Syria.  And even then it may not work.  In the end it will be the Syrians who decide what their future is going to be.

My hope is that Obama’s unwillingness to jump into the fray in a public and bellicose way does not mean nothing is happening.  Helping to orchestrate a joint and meaningful response is a role we can play.  But the underlying assumption being promoted by the anti-Obama crowd that if only the big, powerful Americans would snap their fingers everyone would get in line is just more proof that they still don’t get it!


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