Low Public Support For Taking Action Against Syria
Public Support Lacking Even As Evidence Of Chemical Weapons Emerges
Despite growing evidence that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may have used chemical weapons against civilians, there is scant support for intervening in the nation’s two-year civil war, reports BBC News. The Obama administration acknowledged it was reexamining whether to arm the rebels in light of recent reports of sarin gas use.
A Pew Research Center poll finds that only 45 percent of Americans would consider using military force if it is proven Syria used chemical weapons.
Could Syria Be Used As A Template For Iran, North Korea
Brian Michael Jenkins, a senior adviser with the RAND Corporation, suggests how the US and the world handle the crisis in Syria could serve as a template for how it approaches conflicts in which other nations in the possession of weapons of mass destruction face armed rebellions or civil wars.
“Dealing with chemical weapons in Syria is a complicated and dangerous task, but nowhere near the challenge of securing a nuclear arsenal in a country consumed by crisis,” he warns.
“There are serious concerns about upheaval in nuclear-armed North Korea. There are worries about the future stability of Pakistan, a country with perhaps 100 nuclear weapons. Although Iran is not believed to have nuclear weapons yet, the country has a significant nuclear program with components and material that could be dangerous in the wrong hands. Compared to the scenarios that could arise in these countries, Syria might be viewed as easy.”
North Korea Moves To Gain Upper Hand
While the US and Europe were closely watching Syria this week, it was clear that Iran and North Korea are closely watching how the global community responds.
This week North Korea posed a test of its own to the West when it found Kenneth Bae guilty of crimes against the state and sentenced him to hard labor. Rather than an isolated event, Gordon Chang asserts in The Daily Beast that North Korea is using hostages as bargaining chips.
Lowell Schwartz believes North Korea’s provocative action is predictable, but says it does not make it any easier to predict what happens next.
“But after issuing threats, conducting nuclear tests, and launching missiles, what will North Korean leader Kim Jong Un do next? The escalating tension on the Korean Peninsula is again prompting analysts to ponder North Korea’s next big move, how the United States and its allies would respond, and what Pyongyang might do after that.”
State Department deputy spokesman Patrick Ventrell has issued a request for Pyongyang to grant Mr. Bae amnesty and immediate release.
Words Have Consequences
Much of the last week’s debate has revolved around whether or not there is clear evidence that a crossing of the “red line” has occurred, and, if it has been crossed, how the US will extract itself from the corner into which it has been painted.
How the US was painted into the corner, according to Rosa Brooks, is partly a result of our own words and one word in particular – unacceptable.
“Today, many of our senior-most diplomats (and I include the president in that general category) seem to substitute shrillness for suavity, hectoring intransigence for erudition, and prissy pomposity for persuasion,” she writes.
The problem with the shrillness, she contends, is two-fold. The first problem is tendency to issue black-and-white statements (describing something as unacceptable) while having no intention to back those statements up with action. Second, Brooks bluntly states: “It’s just obnoxious — and its sheer obnoxiousness makes it dangerous.”
The danger is that states are only as rational as the individuals that govern them and “these individuals, like all individuals, are products of their cultures, and influenced as much by ego and the expectations of those who surround them as by strictly rational cost-benefit calculations. A state can’t feel insulted or humiliated, but an individual certainly can — and at the end of the day, it’s individuals, not abstractions, who determine Iranian nuclear policy and Syrian military strategy.”