Why didn't the US negotiate with Russia or China to remove Syria's chemical weapons before threatening military intervention?
War – One day we may speak of that word the way we do of muskets and cannons. There are those who hate war, those who love it, and those like me who feel war is merely a tool, or as Clausewitz would put it, “the continuation of politics by other means.”
These past few weeks, the cries for war have revolved around chemical weapons in Syria and its use on civilian populations. The drums were fiery and passionate at first, but have since become muted and cerebral with the President asking congress to give him the authority to launch any military action against Bashar Al-Assad’s government.
Now it seems the drums have all but stopped thanks to a deal initiated by the Russians that would see the Syrian government put their chemical weapons stockpiles under international control.
If Syria were a child, then surely China would be its mother and Russia its stern spank ready father. Neither of these countries is convinced that Assad is at fault for these chemical attacks, but at the same time, at least Russia is taking a peaceful approach.
The question races through my mind as to why Assad would authorize the use of chemical weapons in the first place. For him to authorize their use would invite international condemnation and intervention. His regime has been an effective killing machine with bullets and bombs, therefore chemical weapons would be counter-productive to their aims of crushing dissent and solidifying their grasp on power.
The other more likelihoods would be the rebels who have every incentive to use chemical weapons to invite exactly what Assad would like to avoid, international attention. It is also possible that a Syrian Commander ordered the attack without Assad’s consent. If that’s the case Assad should still be held responsible as the country’s leader, but it’s more deserving of weapon confiscation than a military strike.
If Assad faults on the deal somehow, I believe we still need a reasonable degree of certainty that Assad’s regime is responsible for the chemical attacks. There still ought to be proof before undertaking the responsibility of firing up the engines of war to bomb faraway places.
I can understand why it has taken a chemical attack to provoke the threat of intervention; most of the world has agreed that the use of chemical weapons is uncivilized and has signed onto a treaty to have them all destroyed.
Bullets and bombs having destroyed far more lives is worthy of consideration, but if the stigma of chemical weapons did not exist, the damage they would have done would pale that of the aforementioned bullets and bombs.
If China and Russia is Syria’s mother and father, we have to think of the United States as the next door neighbor who complains about their child’s bullying. One has to wonder if Obama’s strong war like rhetoric was responsible for Russia’s decision to make a deal for Assad’s chemical weapons.
I’m not condoning Obama’s actions or method of diplomacy, but I don’t think Assad would have tentatively agreed to hand over his chemical weapons stockpiles if Obama and others had done nothing.
The question I have is why Obama or at least his advisers used the threat of military force instead of negotiating with the Russians in the first place. They seem to have come up quickly with a peaceful alternative. I know the relationship has been frosty of late with Snowden and the anti-gay law Russia passed, but they still managed to negotiate a little during the Cold War.
The United Stated, particularly a president who has won the Nobel Peace Prize should not be so willing to deal out death and destruction before all avenues for peace are exhausted.
Now it’s just a question of whether Assad will go through with the deal. If he doesn’t you can be sure an attack will be imminent.