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Friday, October 11, 2013
Lucky us. We Americans may well have dodged the bullet in the Middle East, at least for now.
Just when President Barack Obama had backed himself into a very tight, risk-laden corner over the issue of chemical weapons use in Syria, along came help from the most unlikely possible quarter.
Russia’s Vladimir Putin, one of the world’s most thoroughgoing reprobates, saw his chance to make Obama look both weak and warlike at the same time.
This on the heels of every Republican in Christendom having called Obama vacillating, or bumbling or the Inspector Clouseau of U.S. politics.
Putin advanced a plan to convince Syria’s Bashar al-Assad to ’fess up about his stock of chemical weapons and to promise to place them under international control.
With the U.S. House of Representatives leery of authorizing the president to conduct a missile strike and risk our involvement in yet another war in the Middle East, our president found himself in a second corner.
His choice was either to go for the Putin plan and endure more right-wing taunts about being weak and indecisive, or say no and look like a war monger.
For Obama, this dilemma would seem to be a lose-lose situation, yet it is one in which more political courage might be required to hold back rather than to strike.
But what about the rest of us? This time, fewer Americans appear to have given in to our usual tough-guy mind-set. As horrible as the Assad regime’s actions have been, more of us in the United States appear to have edged past our traditional inclination to prove that we’re the toughest dude on the international block. More of us now question what we have actually gained from our decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
More of us realize that constant or recurring war has greatly weakened us financially and that many of the people we have tried to help now despise us.
An al-Qaida video came right out and mocked us, saying that all the group needs do is hit us with an occasional strike, which costs it little, and our reaction will be to throw billions more borrowed dollars into full-scale military action in response. Al-Qaida’s plan, its leaders smirked, is to wait us out until we are so broke, our economy collapses.
Inasmuch as some of our national leaders still itch for more war, we might think back to the eve of our invasion of Iraq, when George W. Bush said, “Bring them on.”
That remark seemed to reduce a complex and remarkably costly off-the-books war to the level of a playground fight. Even so, to disagree with him at that point was branded unpatriotic.
Many lives and many billions later, some Americans wanted to bring our troops home from Iraq, but right-wing wordsmith Karl Rove said that to do so would be to “cut and run,” another playground fight analogy.
Sadly, Bush’s and Rove’s catchphrases resonated. They played us the way a fisherman plays a trout.
This time, the hawks and war profiteers might have a harder time getting their way. Still, some voters will puff out their chest, label themselves patriots and demand that we send our troops into battle again. Such hawkish people call to mind the 1947 song “Feudin’ and Fightin,’ ” which pokes fun at some Americans’ love of a good scrap.
That song’s most satirical line is, “Let’s give our daughter a pistol, now that she’s four/ And we’ll go feudin’ and fightin’ once more.”
Let us hope the position expressed in the song’s last verse doesn’t win out: “Polish the shootin’ iron, I’m gettin’ a yen/ To go feudin’ and fightin’ again.”
Instead, let’s bring our troops home to rest, regroup and re-equip for a strong defense rather than risk a new war with scant help from other nations.
As Obama says, let’s concentrate on desperately needed jobs and financial recovery ere we police the world until we become the new Greece.
When self-professed patriots howl for a new war, just ask them how much they would be willing to pony up in additional taxes to pay for it.
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