By Paolo von Schirach
January 31, 2014
WASHINGTON – Imagine someone finding out that he is the victim of a hoax. In general you might expect an irate reaction, strong complaints and legal actions aimed at obtaining restitution and possibly the payment of damages. Well, imagine the same victim who, being afraid of the costs of lawyers’ costs and the possible unpleasant repercussions of protracted court proceedings, declares that, in fact, there was no hoax. Well, may be the product or service he purchased is not exactly as advertised, but it is alright, really.
Syria’s chemical weapons have not been handed over
Well, if you can picture this sad scenario, you can also picture the position of the United States, now confronted with the obvious bad faith of the Syrian government in the highly publicized matter of the disposal of its entire chemical weapons arsenal. The WSJ quotes a Reuters report indicating that, so far, Syria handed over 59 tons of chemical material. This amounts to 4.1% of its declared stockpiles, amounting to 1,433 tons. Yes, you got it: 59 tons out of 1,433. But, wait, it gets better. Western intelligence services estimate that Assad declared only 32 of its 50 chemical weapons sites. So, first he cheated in his disclosure, and then he drags the process with the justification that the security situation prevents his regime from handing over Syria’s WMDs.
No reaction from Washington
Indeed. And, faced with this overt bad faith, what does Washington do? Nothing. In fact, worse than nothing. President Obama calls this process, supposedly leading to the elimination of all chemical weapons from Syria, a success. And so the American public is told that all is well, and working out according to plan, when the opposite is true.
And why does Washington go along with the hoax? Well, because it is unwilling to undertake any punitive action against Syria. And here is the real problem. One thing is to say that we shall do nothing regarding the Syrian mess because this crisis, however bad it may be, does not affect America’s national interest. But quite another is to contemplate a crisis that does affect America’s national interest and do nothing, because we are afraid of the consequences of taking action.
America’s undeclared impotence
And this is precisely America’s predicament. The US economy is doing a bit better, these days, but Washington is still broke. We are cutting defense spending in a major way as a means (unwise as it may be) to diminish the federal budget deficit. On top of that, the country does not want any new wars. Iraq went very poorly, and we are getting out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014, even if this exit may cause the reversal of some gains against the Taliban and al Qaeda affiliates. The last thing Obama wants is a brand new engagement in yet another Arab country.
Fair enough. We are exhausted and penniless and therefore we shall not act. However, as painful as such an admission of impotence would be, it would still be better than looking at Assad’s bad faith and calling it compliance.
Think for a moment.
Do you think that the rest of the world is missing this? Do you think that America’s passivity in its dealings with a small tyrant is lost on other world leaders? The fact that America is willing to rename defeat and call it “victory” will be noted; and it will be correctly registered as yet another sign of American decline.