Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck is sometimes credited with the proverb, “God has a special providence for fools, drunks and the United States of America.”
Observing the unfolding of the Syrian crisis, the Iron Chancellor was an insightful man.
In August, we were hours away from missile strikes on Syria and involvement in its civil war with the possibility that Hezbollah, Iran and Russia would be drawn in.
Seeking a way out of the box into which he gotten himself with his “Assad Must Go!” and “red line” bluster, President Obama announced he was going to Congress to get its backing, before bombing.
This ignited a Middle American uprising against Obama’s war. Then John Kerry said Syria could evade the terrible swift sword of Barack Obama only by surrendering all their chemical weapons within a week.
Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, watching the United States careening toward a war that Russia no more wanted than did most of Congress, seized upon Kerry’s statement and said: Let us work together to rid Syria of chemical arms.
Obama grabbed the life preserver.
To say the War Party is apoplectic at Obama for blowing this chance to get us into war with Syria, which held real promise of sucking us into a war with Iran, is an understatement.
The worst peace scare in memory is sweeping through the think tanks of Washington.
Conceding the incompetence of how Obama and Kerry got us into this mess, are we not in a far better place than a month ago?
—A U.S. war on Syria has been averted. We are not killing Syrians.
—Assad has conceded he has chemical weapons and has shown a willingness to have inspectors come in and remove it.
—The chilly, almost Cold War-like relations between Obama and Putin have given way to cooperation in getting these chemical weapons chronicled and removed.
—While this disarmament may take years, this is a powerful incentive for America and Russia to bring about a cease-fire, truce or end to this civil-sectarian war that has taken so many thousands of lives.
—There is a rising realization in the United States that the enemy in Syria is not Assad but the al-Qaida fighters and their allies. A victory for the rebels could mean mass martyrdom for Syria’s Christians and the annihilation of the Alawites.
—Hassan Rouhani, the new prime minister of Iran, has gone on U.S. television to declare Iran is not only not building an atom bomb, it will never do so. And he has signaled a willingness to prove it in return for a lifting of sanctions and readmission to the world community.
—A U.S.-Iranian meeting appears possible next week at the U.N., which could lead to direct negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.
There is always a possibility an incident could turn the United States back toward the bellicosity of August and put the War Party back in the saddle. But there are reasons to be hopeful. And that hope is not based on some naive trust in the truth of what we are being told by our adversaries, but on what their own cold interests dictate.
Take Russia. A U.S. attack on Syria would surely lead to deeper U.S. involvement, the fall of Assad, the loss of her principal ally in the Arab world and her naval base at Latakia, and a loss of prestige at having been proven unable to protect her Syrian ally from the Americans.
A U.S. war on Assad’s regime could also mean a victory for Islamists and their capture of some of Assad’s chemical weapons, which could turn up in the Caucasus just in time for the Sochi Olympics.
Take Iran. She is suffering from the sanctions. Failure to do a deal on her nuclear program carries a rising risk the War Party will get its way and the United States will launch air and missile strikes, leading to a war in the Persian Gulf. No matter the damage this might do to America and the global economy, Iran could be set back decades. A breakup of Iran is possible, as Iraq is breaking up.
And what would an atom bomb do for Iran? The Saudis would acquire one, and the Israelis would put their hundreds on a hair trigger.
If America was not intimidated by thousands of nuclear weapons in Soviet silos and on Soviet submarines, does Tehran think an Iranian bomb is going to frighten the Americans out of the Gulf?
Take Syria. Assad wants to survive and emerge victorious from his civil war. That means no war with the United States. That means meeting the Americans at least halfway.
In short, the United States, Russia, Syria and even Iran have a cold interest in no wider war in Syria. Unfortunately, powerful forces across the Middle East, and right here in River City, believe they have a vital interest in bringing about just such a war.