The Edmond Sun

September 17, 2013

EDITORIALS: Strikes averted, for now / Open letter to Vladimir Putin


CNHI News Service

Agreement averts strike on Syria, at least for now

(The New Castle News, New Castle, Pa.)

All things considered, we’re glad the United States is taking no direct military action in Syria.

At least not yet. Officials in the Obama administration warned that an agreement forged with Russia over the status of Syria’s chemical weapons is only as good as the actions of Bashar Assad’s regime. The threat of future military moves remain on the table if Syria does not comply.

What to do about Syria in the wake of a confirmed sarin gas attack on civilians poses a problem for the international community. We have held that doing nothing poses risks of its own in terms of encouraging future attacks by Syria and other nations.

But the Obama administration faced a variety of hurdles in its call for military action against Syria. While some of this opposition may have been politically motivated, a very legitimate and practical question loomed over the administration’s efforts: What, precisely, would be accomplished by a strike on Syria? With the administration saying the intent was not to remove Assad or turn the tide of Syria’s civil war, and the ongoing debate giving the regime time to hide potential targets, it was difficult to define the goal of such a mission.

President Obama is now drawing criticism from several factions, accusing him of looking weak and disorganized in his handling of Syria. No doubt some of this criticism is warranted. But we suspect the Russian proposal — quickly accepted by Syria — to have chemical weapons removed from that country was a result of Obama’s threat of military action.

Perhaps the president achieved a strategic victory of sorts without engaging America’s military.

None of this, of course, does much to resolve Syria’s future. It remains unclear whether the Assad regime will survive the ongoing civil war. Waiting to be addressed is how the world will deal with Assad if it’s formally determined his government gassed its own people.

And even if there is no direct military intervention by the United States or its allies, the option to aid rebel groups continues to be viable. That, however, presents the problem of how to support anti-Assad factions friendly to the West without opening a door for radical Islamic groups.

This is indeed a puzzle for America and its allies. But it’s also one that ultimately must be resolved by Syria and other Middle Eastern nations dealing with similar leadership and power concerns. They must decide if they want societies that thrive and grow and debate issues peacefully, or if they will endure under repressive overlords demanding total control.

The West can aid democratic efforts in these countries, but they cannot dictate them.

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An open letter response to Putin

(The Mankato Free Press / Mankato, Minn.)

Dear Vladimir (you don’t mind being called Vladimir, do you? Since you used the New York Times op-ed piece to get closer to us Americans, we figured you wanted to be less formal),

Now that we’re pen pals (at least with help from your PR firm, Ketchum), let’s talk a little more about those things that seem to concern you — Syria, international law and the American psyche.

Your professorial observation that Syria is not a battle for democracy but an “internal conflict, fueled by foreign weapons supplied to the opposition...” is interesting. But one has to wonder where Damascus is getting its Russian-made S-3000 missiles, MiG-29M/M2 and MiG21 jets and those Russian Mi-8 and Mi-17 helicopter gunships as well as Russian-made Mi24/25 attack helicopters that can drop 250 kg bombs.

And while we can agree that chemical weapons were used in Syria, frankly we’re a little confused by your insistence that “there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces…” Hmm. Not Syria?

Syrian president Bashar Assad initially denied even having chemical weapons, and then his foreign minister says, ‘Well yes we do, and by the way, we want them under international supervision. And we’ll sign the pact barring use of such weapons, something we’ve resisted for years.’

Vladimir? Come on. Give us a little credit here. We’ve seen the Wizard of Oz too and won’t fall for that “man behind the curtain” ruse.

But frankly the one area you may want to revisit is your chiding us for our feeling of being exceptional. You say it is “extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. … We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”

Does this view mean we’re all created equal, including gays and lesbians? Does this mean you are standing down your enforcement of anti-gay propaganda laws? Or you will release the members of Pussy Riot from the penal colonies where they have been imprisoned for “hooliganism” after performing a punk prayer? Or maybe you’ll release Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who blew the whistle on Kremlin insiders who profited by defrauding the Russian government of $200 million taxes only to end up in prison?

Yeah, we’re still feeling pretty exceptional, because while we have our faults, we have the freedom to complain about them without fear of imprisonment or worse. And people are still knocking on our door to enjoy our freedoms. How about you?

But getting back to your op-ed piece, we’re glad you are open to engaging in constructive dialogue. We hope you will extend that courtesy to our foreign diplomats who are looking to end the bloodshed and gassing of Syrians.

All in all, you seem to be pretty confident in your ownership of what will work in the Syrian conflict. We don’t see an easy out, but frankly, if you want to take over this Syrian mess, it’s all yours. We know a bad situation when we see one. We bungled it thus far. If you have the answer, go for it.

Just don’t expect an invitation to our Fourth of July barbecue.

Sincerely,

Your exceptional Americans