Monday, September 16, 2013

Geneva

Based on about five years of writing a blog whose main mission is to support the president, I can attest that you generally can't go wrong taking that position. This was proven again this week when President Obama's firm and courageous stand against chemical weapons use in Syria resulted in an agreement with Russia to disarm Syria's stockpile of those weapons. Even people who had doubts about the use of military force in Syria should recognize that backing up the president on this issue might have turned out to be the smart thing to do, since it gave him enough credibility to get Syria and Russia to back down.

Of course some will never give the president credit for this achievement. I heard some commentators on the right this past week saying they trust the President of Russia more than the President of the United States. (a stance they probably would have called treasonous during the Bush or Reagan years) Imagine trusting Putin! This is the chief backer of one of the most despicable dictators in the world, a proven liar who only a few days ago was still suggesting that it was the rebels and not the Syrian government who were responsible for the gas attack in August. To trust the Russian leader and his hateful client the dictator of Syria over President Obama, who happens to have extricated us from two wars and kept us out of a couple of others, shows a kind of willful blindness. I just have to shake my head in wonder at the knots that critics on the right sometimes tie themselves into to make sure that they never give the president credit for anything.

Meanwhile I heard some critics on the left, with their knee jerk opposition to using any kind of military force anywhere, practically turn into apologists for one of the worst governments on earth, one that has committed almost incomprehensible atrocities against its own people. And shamelessly lied about it. Only a few days after denying that they even had chemical weapons, they are now agreeing to give them up.

This week I also heard lots of congressmen making every excuse they could think of to try to avoid doing their jobs. They were so relieved they did not have to take a stand on an issue that actually matters that they were ready to kiss the feet of the Russian autocrat who, by giving in to the president's demands, saved them from having to make a difficult decision.

All this running from responsibility and making excuses for inaction was enough to make me disgusted with the whole government, the media, and large swaths of public opinion. Thankfully, we still have the shining exception of the president and his foreign policy team. President Obama took a principled stand that was not particularly popular with a public weary of intervention in foreign crises, and was vindicated by achieving a potential breakthrough in arms control, and an opening to resolve the Syrian civil war itself. We're not out of the woods yet in the Middle East by any means, but people have to recognize that there is more cause for hope in Syria than anyone could have predicted earlier this summer. Maybe people should consider giving the president a little more benefit of the doubt. Maybe we should just be proud that, thanks to Barack Obama, we did not just stand idly by while a tyrant tried to get away with gassing his own people.

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