TAMPA, September 10, 2013 – Syrian foreign minister Walid al-Moallem said earlier today that his government would accept the proposal to surrender its chemical weapons for destruction by the international community, according to the Associated Press. The proposal was made by the Russian government in an attempt to avoid U.S. airstrikes in reprisal for alleged chemical weapons attacks by its Syrian counterpart against rebels and civilians on Aug. 21.
The Syrian government has consistently denied launching the attacks.
President Obama has now reportedly changed the goal of his meetings today with Congressmen from persuading them to approve his military strikes to participating in the diplomatic solution. This begs an obvious question.
Why was it Russia that proposed a diplomatic solution, while the Nobel Peace Prize-winning U.S. president would consider nothing but war?
Indeed, Russian president Vladimir Putin has consistently been a calm voice of restraint and caution during the entire crisis, while Obama has sounded more like Khrushchev than Kennedy.
Syria is a longtime Russian ally and the home to Russia’s only military base outside its borders. The U.S. threats of military action against Syria is only the latest in a long train of provocative actions by the U.S. government towards its former Cold War adversary. As Pat Buchanan wrote in the American Conservative,
“George W. Bush sought to put an anti-missile system in Poland and the Czech Republic. Neither country had requested it. We said it was aimed at Iran. When my late friend, columnist Tony Blankley, visited Russia in the Bush II era, he was astounded at the hostility he encountered from Russians who felt we had responded to their offer of friendship at the end of the Cold War by taking advantage of them.”
The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, chiefly for economic reasons. That’s not the same as surrendering to an adversary in a hot war. Yet, the U.S. government has treated Russia more like Germany after the Treaty of Versailles than the major First World power that they remain.
Imagine how the U.S. government would react if Russia were talking about bombing Israel in response to some alleged misdeed?
Yet, Putin has avoided bellicosity in the face of the Obama administration’s refusal to consider anything but military action, asking only that the administration at least wait for all of the evidence to be presented and examined.
Yesterday, it was Putin who proposed a diplomatic solution to the crisis while Obama maintained his full court press for war. This isn’t the first time that Americans have been confronted with bizarre role reversals between their government and Russia’s. At a G20 conference in 2009, while the Obama administration was promoting its housing bailout bill, Putin lectured the administration about the evils of socialism.
“Excessive intervention in economic activity and blind faith in the state’s omnipotence is another possible mistake…In the 20th century, the Soviet Union made the state’s role absolute. In the long run, this made the Soviet economy totally uncompetitive. This lesson cost us dearly. I am sure nobody wants to see it repeated,” said Putin.
For the past four and a half years, the Obama administration has pursued the very interventionist economic policies it had so vehemently criticized the Bush administration for, while the Russian government advised to let the market do more of the work.
During the Syrian chemical weapons crisis, the Obama administration has demonstrated the same eagerness for war, the same rush to judgment and the same disregard for the opinions of the international community and its own citizens that it criticized the Bush administration for in the lead-up to Iraq. It has managed to make the Russians look like the good guys.
That’s because in this case, they are.
Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.