Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Bringing the A-Game to the Table

Russian Grand Master

Vlad the Impaler is making Obama look more and more foolish.  We are not sure whether this reflects a much more experienced "old hand" running the Russian government, or whether the Russian authorities have decided that Obama's suit is filled with an effete mixture of hot air, hubris, and little else and they are mischievously delighting in exposing the emptiness to the world, or whether they are just far more sophisticated and clever than the inexperienced two-bit community organiser from Chicago.  Whatever--but the reality is that Vlad knows how to play a very sophisticated game of chess.  He also shows signs of having sized up his opponent all too well. 

Firstly, tactical move number #1: keep the whole Syrian thing boiling in the UN pot.
  This, in turn, keeps Obama in a vice of his own making.  He has been (up until now) the champion of humanitarianism and internationalism--and therefore of the UN--especially in matter of war.  There is not a hope that the UN Security Council will endorse military action against Syria.  Russia and China will effectively block it.  But it is helpful to the Russian/Syrian cause if the rest of the world can maintain some semblance of respect for the UN with a straight face and follow its lead. 

So, Vlad has acted masterfully to keep the whole thing in the hands of the UN, by getting Syria to agree to the handing over and destruction of its chemical weapon stockpile.  Count the months and months it will take to get the stockpile inspected, removed, and destroyed.  If Obama goes to war now, he will likely do so unilaterally and with the attendant brimstone stench of a warmonger.  All his previous trumpeting about internationalism and humanitarianism will be judged to be the empty braying of a donkey.  He will have lost all moral authority and respect. 

Tactical move number #2: having gained control of international sentiment, Vlad has left Obama out in the cold, having to make arguments to a sceptical US public--already stretched, disbelieving, and cynical--even while the casus belli has been surgically removed.  If it was going to be hard to get congressional approval before the dramatic Russian/Syrian move, it would be next to impossible after.

In addition, the US has been poorly served by an idiotic Secretary of State who has used the following to justify US military action (as quoted in the Guardian):
Kerry said the Americans were planning an "unbelievably small" attack on Syria. "We will be able to hold Bashar al-Assad accountable without engaging in troops on the ground or any other prolonged kind of effort in a very limited, very targeted, short-term effort that degrades his capacity to deliver chemical weapons without assuming responsibility for Syria's civil war. That is exactly what we are talking about doing – unbelievably small, limited kind of effort."
So, US military action is now a mere token--"unbelievably small".   Here is Obama in high moral dudgeon and all a-bluster telling us that terrible bright red lines have been crossed and that Syria must be called to account.  This is the Obama moral imperative, that was not his really but (he tells us) the whole world's.  But at the same time his Secretary of State, John Kerry is also busy telling the world the US response will be "unbelievably small", so don't worry about it.  And, by the way, Syria can avoid suffering this "unbelievably small" military punishment if it hands over its chemical weapon arsenal.

No sooner had the words come out of his mouth, the Russians and the Syrians (having set the trap) said, "No problemo", leaving Obama flapping in a receding tide, beached on the seashore.

That's what happens when a consummate chess player sits down across the table with a blustering community organiser from Chicago.  It's called checkmate.

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