“U.S. Chides Syria on Missed Chemical Arms Deadlines”, —New York Times, January 30, 2014
Say goodbye to the big stick. Say hello to the big chide.
Five months ago, you will recall, President Obama was preparing to launch military strikes against Bashar al-Assad. The strikes were averted when the Russians, seizing on a gaffe by Secretary of State John Kerry, proposed a deal in which Assad would give up his WMD if the United States did not bomb.
How are things working out? Well, who could have predicted it, but this week we learned that Assad has retained 95 percent of his WMD stockpile while continuing to miss the deadlines to hand over his weapons. More than 125,000 Syrians are dead, millions more are displaced, and al Qaeda affiliates claim jurisdiction over much of the country.
The conflict has drawn thousands of foreign fighters from 50 countries into Syria, foreign fighters who have every intention of bringing the jihad back home when they return to Africa, Asia, Europe, and the United States. The Syrian chaos has spilled over into Lebanon and into Iraq, where ethno-sectarian conflict has resumed and al Qaeda has reappeared.
But do not worry. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is on the case. “The United States is concerned that the Syrian government is behind in delivering these chemical weapons and precursor materials on time, and with the schedule that was agreed to,” he said in a statement from Poland. And if that is not enough to get Assad back on schedule, the State Department made the hilarious claim that the military option remains “on the table.”
I cannot say I am surprised. Recent world news has had a rather odd quality. Read it and one cannot help noticing the striking divergence between the facts reported and the administration’s response to those facts. Day after day brings headlines that clash with the preferred narrative of the Obama White House and its allies, and day after day the White House and those allies say the news does not really mean what you think it means.
Russia, for instance, has been caught violating a decades-old nuclear missile treaty. A high-ranking administration official has admitted as much to our NATO allies. But the Obama State Department does not want to acknowledge the violation formally because, the New York Times reports, “With President Obama pledging to seek deeper cuts in nuclear arms, the State Department has been trying to find a way to resolve the compliance issue, preserve the treaty, and keep the door open to future arms control accords.” This is logic at which Yossarian would not be surprised: We cannot say the Russians broke the treaty because that would jeopardize our chances of signing more treaties with the Russians.