Common Ground: Soft speech still works

Nick Bratcher

In the aftermath of the Syrian gas attacks last week, President Barack Obama pressed Congress for approval to send drone strikes into Syria to punish the al-Assad regime.

Indeed, it seemed that the United States was on the verge of lighting the fuse of a bomb so fierce that the entire world preferred to overlook the 1,400 sarin gas-induced deaths and the 2 million refugees that have fled Syria already.

However, due to a strong urging from Russia on Monday, Syria is now considering the complete destruction of its entire chemical weapons arsenal.

Three things have stood out to me about this entire crisis.

First, Obama has a lot of egg on his face, and it’s in front of the international community.

One minute, the commander-in-chief is convinced there is no other option left to pursue in order to correct this injustice besides violence. 

The next day, without a single shot fired, Syria’s foreign minister said that he has “embraced the proposal” from Russia to destroy Syrian chemical weapons, according to an Associated Press report.

If Obama’s plan had met less opposition in Congress, we might have already cost human lives for a cause that had other options still on the table.

And it’s not as if the rest of the world is shocked that diplomacy still has a window of opportunity for success.

I’m certainly not surprised. I urged such actions last week, citing a plan from Human Rights First that specifically included enlisting the help of Russia, a country with tremendous influence in the region.

I’m not one to say “I told you so,” but it might be appropriate at this point.

Second, the U.S. has got to stop acting as the world’s police. 

That is not to say that we should let injustice reign as we turn a blind eye to the world.

But U.S. diplomacy has turned into a joke within the international community. Countries have steadily become disillusioned with U.S. intelligence since we used the threat of weapons of mass destruction to invade Iraq and Afghanistan.

Judging by this situation, the only country that remains faithful to U.S. foreign policy and intelligence is France.

It’s totally acceptable to take a moment to weep at this realization. I know I did.

Third, if the U.S. does not stop, it will lose all of its credibility worldwide.

Monday morning, Secretary of State John Kerry made a joke that a Syrian agreement for a complete chemical weapons disarmament would prevent any drone strikes by the U.S. 

He then laughed off such a proposition as being improbable at best with little idea of how to even accomplish such a feat.

Hours later, Russia was demanding that very notion with a positive response in Syria.

Does no one else see that another country on the U.N. Security Council accomplished policy within hours of employing it that the U.S. could only fantasize about in offhanded jokes?

This is outrageous — or at the very least it’s depressing.

Has the value of our nation and its word sunk that low?

I would argue that we’re destined for even lower depths if we don’t re-learn how to conduct ourselves in foreign affairs.

Just because we carry a big stick doesn’t mean we have to be so quick to use it.