There are signs of desperation in the Obama-Kerry campaign to obtain support for an attack on Syria from the Congress, the public, and European governments..
Or is it a Kerry-Obama campaign?
The Secretary of State has been furthest out in his claims of a moral imperative, and now conjuring up a doubtful Munich comparison.
The Administration is also reaching out to AIPAC, in order to include Israel in Congressional thinking and create a connection between Syria's use of chemical weapons and Iran's development of nuclear weapons.
Munich might work with respect to Iran, but not with respect to Syria.
If the boys from Washington are serious, they would be preparing an attack on Iran rather than Syria.
Those who have followed several years' efforts to negotiate with Iran, and weigh Syria's use of chemical weapons against how the Iranian leadership has threatened Israel ought to reach a similar conclusion.
Ugly as they are, Syria's chemical weapons kill a thousand or so at a time, if wind and other weather conditions are appropriate. Iran's nuclear weapons--said by some to be 6 months or even less into the future--would multiply the casualties many times over.
Also in the White House campaign are the ugliest of videos showing civilians suffering from poison gas. These are being shown to Members of Congress and--via CNN--to the American public.
Remember the Tonkin Gulf incident, used by Lyndon Johnson to justify a major escalation of what John Kennedy began in Vietnam. Subsequent research found the story exaggerated or manufactured.
News from Russian media, also circulating from several sources on the Internet
, is that a Jihadist brigade massacred a village of Syrian Christians.
How will that fit with Senators and Members of the House of Representatives who owe their seats to voters who take their Christianity seriously, who recognize that an American attack will help those Jihadists who also massacred Alawis, and would do the same to Assad and his family if they could?
Uzi Arad is a skeptical Israeli, as well as having been a senior figure in the Mossad and National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister. He reminds us that Syria is not a signatory to the agreement prohibiting the development, production, acquisition, or transfer of chemical weapons, that it is possible to read the earlier Geneva Convention of 1925 outlawing chemical weapons (which Syria has signed) as dealing only with their use in "warfare" against the army of another nation, and that the evidence to date does not show that Assad or anyone close to him ordered their use.
These may be minor points for those moved by human suffering. However, the conventional weapons of Assad and his opponents killed and maimed many more, as well as forcing perhaps one-third of the Syrian population to leave their homes for refuge elsewhere in Syria or other countries.
Israel is also not a signatory to the recent ban on development, production, et al of chemical weapons, which might mean that we have something to use against Syrians if the provocation arises, as well as having a population with some experience with defensive measures against gas and to a large part already equipped with masks and an antidote.
Also in the picture are Russian as well as American warships moving closer to one another in the eastern Mediterranean. Vladimir Putin has said that he would defend Assad against an attack. The most dicey scenario sees a repeat of the Cuba crisis. Are Barack Obama, John Kerry, and Vladimir Putin made of the same stuff as the Kennedy brothers and Nikita Khrushchev? They all blinked, and found a way to avoid confrontation in 1962.
One looks hard for signs of support for the Obama-Kerry campaign in the American public or the House of Representatives. Reports are that the US military has taken advantage of the delay by increasing its list of targets and upping its intentions with respect to the destruction of Assad's military assets.
We also hear that Syrian civilians, along with peace activists from Britain and the United States, are positioning themselves near what are expected to be targets of American missiles and bombers.
Given President Obama's recent record, there is little assurance as to what he will do if he gets the support that his present campaign is meant to arouse, or what he will do if he does not get it.
Neither is there any assurance of his promise that there will be no American boots on the ground. Not only are they already there--perhaps not technically those of uniformed soldiers but more certainly those associated with other American government entities--but controlling what unfolds from the onset of violence may be beyond the President's capacity. Imagine that the Iranians respond by closing the Straits of Hormuz, thus shutting off major sources of energy, or send a missile against an American ship, or that Putin does something in defense of his Syrian clients.
Israel and Jordan can also find themselves in the escalation that the US would have trouble ignoring. Various Syrians, Hezbollah, and Iranians have threatened Jordan because it is a staging point for American aggression, and Israel because of what it is. Both Jordan and Israel have put their forces at various levels of alert, but not against one another.
All told, there is a lot of explosive stuff already primed, while Barack Obama and John Kerry are playing with matches.
Click here to return to Blog home page