Wineke: Good news is ISIL doesn’t have access to poison gas
Once you open your mind to the fear that the Islamic State terrorists are planning to come to the United States and kill us all, it’s a bit hard to find any good news about what’s happening in Syria and Iraq.
But here’s one bit of fear-mongering you haven’t been reading about: No one is warning us that the terrorists might get their hands on Syria’s poison gas stocks and start wiping out the populations of entire cities.
No one is reading about that because Syria no longer has poison gas weapons. A year ago, the United States and Russia came to an agreement and removed the weapons from the area. I believe by now, they’ve all been destroyed.
You may recall that this action wasn’t popular with President Barack Obama’s critics then, and it doesn’t seem to be popular now.
The critics, seemingly including the entire Republican Party and a good part of the Democratic Party, were outraged that the president didn’t bomb Damascus. He had, after all, warned that the use of poison gas was a “red line” for the United States and had sought congressional approval to start bombing after Syria actually used the weapons.
Russia, an ally of Syria, convinced Obama to agree to the weapons disarmament instead. And now, Syria doesn’t have poison gas stocks for the terrorists to seize.
I thought that was a good deal at the time, and I think it’s a good deal still.
After all, the purpose of air strikes was not to kill innocent civilians. The purpose of the threatened air strikes was to convince Syria not to use the weapons again. Removing them not only achieved the hoped-for result in a way that bombing could not; it also spared those civilians and did not put American pilots at risk. All in all, that is a win-win.
Not everyone agrees with that, of course. There are those who think that, if only Obama would have bombed Syria, Russia would have been too intimidated to invade Crimea.
I guess that’s why I am not too impressed by those who go around quacking that the president has no strategy in the current situation. It seems to me that one thing the president always has — in every situation I can think of — is a strategy.
The thing is that strategies involve looking a couple of steps ahead of the morning crisis and strategies, almost by definition, involve subtleties.
And those are two qualities that neither politicians nor journalists can handle easily.
Politics tends to be tactical. Who is up? Who is down? What does today’s poll show? One reason Obama won all those elections is that he didn’t let the latest poll determine his course of action.
Journalism is a black and white craft. Not literally, of course. We now have color photos and lots of blogs. But the surest way to lose readers (or clicks as our modern masters define the craft) is to explore strategic nuance.
That’s why we want to know whether Hillary is going to run for president in 2016.
In time of war, leaders don’t announce their strategies, of course. And if a leader is about to meet with the heads of other states to enlist their cooperation, he might be wise not to announce his strategy beforehand. The other leaders might wish to also have a voice.
But just think about this: Would you feel safer if Syria still had stockpiles of poison gas?