Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Chemical Weapons of Mass Destruction

I am royally disgruntled - I could use a ruder phrase, but that will do. The media and the international community are dancing in the spotlight of outrage at the use of these, and Russia has cleverly outmaneuvered America in the diplomacy stakes with regard to doing something about it. I'm not annoyed about this latter development, but I am annoyed at the way this incident has made the real problem almost invisible. The two sides are tearing vast lumps out of each other on a daily basis. Millions of people are being rendered homeless and stateless and thousands have died and will continue to do so. The suffering is happening on an unimaginable scale. What is killing these people? Not weapons of mass destruction. Oh, so we don't have to jump up and down in a panic stricken sort of way then? Call me stupid, but if thousands of people are dying because of bombing and other fire power, aren't these weapons also causing mass destruction. Isn't this fine point just what gave the edge to the debate over gun policy in the USA? Surely no private individual needs to possess a weapon that is capable of shooting scores of rounds in a matter of seconds? There's a thin red line right there.
However, there is light in this tunnel. The Russian Foreign Secretary, Sergei Lavrov, has said that the current diplomatic activity will hopefully lead on to talks aimed at halting the conflict in Syria. Well, here's hoping, and praying. 
I know that there is a huge tension between standing by and doing nothing when countries begin to descend into the hell of their own internal conflicts, and trying to influence them to stop. The tension is ramped up further when the so called weapons of mass destruction are brought in by one side or the other,  although the logic that says this is a thin red line seems kind of arbitrary. Is genocide a weapon of mass destruction, or an attitude of mass destruction...?  When it comes to being able to influence others to stop doing bad and very bad things, the current model is instructive. We can bleat all we like about Russia's vested interests in the region and in Syria, but Assad sees them as his friends. They have influence through this friendship. The USA is big and tough, but hasn't been able to frighten Assad into doing anything, as far as we know that is, though the hawks will say that Assad gave way to Russia's plan because he needed to have something on the table to stop the USA from selectively bombing his arsenals to smithereens. But at least they were able to offer a face saver of a plan.
We now have to wait and see.

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