Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Accident Or Opportunity?

Experiments can bring about the most amazing results, especially when you're a kid - or at least, they did when our staff members were kids.

Even considering the scientific studies on kids over the past few decades - like the recent findings tying brain damage in adults to injuries suffered from playing football as a kid or teenager - many American parents today often seem a bit overprotective to us. As one of our staff members has a highly intelligent and somewhat precocious youngster running around the office, we regularly get to experience that mix of instant terror and instant thrill that parents enjoy, that otherwise is reserved for experiences like roller coasters.

The American - and international - media got to experience a similar feeling on Monday, thanks in part to Secretary of State John Kerry, in what some members of the media have termed an accidental solution to the ongoing debate over Syria.

In a nutshell, Secretary Kerry was at a news conference in London on Monday when he was asked what, if anything, Syria's President Assad could do to avoid military action. Kerry, in what some reporters initially called a gaffe, said that if Syria's Assad were to surrender his stockpile of chemical weapons to an international commission, within a week, Assad and Syria could almost certainly avoid U.S. military action.

In less time than it takes a resourceful child to take an accident-prone death-trap of an idea and turn it into a fantastic opportunity, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov offered a plan to do almost exactly what Secretary Kerry had suggested - namely for Russia to head up an international group to take control of Syria's chemical weapons.

At nearly light-speed, politically, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem - who was already meeting with Russia's Lavrov - released a statement quickly welcoming the idea of putting Syria's chemical weapons under international control. Shortly thereafter,  U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon took things one step further, proposing that the U.N. Security Council not only immediately back the handover of the weapons, but also help to destroy them as fast as safely possible.

And just like that, in one afternoon, America and much of the world may have been backed down from a potentially disastrous military engagement by the United States in Syria - and the U.S. didn't even have to play supercop to get the desired results.

Admittedly, we're less sure that this was a happy accident than a carefully planned set of actions arranged by Kerry and his counterparts, to save face for all nations involved. Still, if this plan moves forward, we believe most of the world will be happy about the results - results we're sure America and the world will hear more about Tuesday night, when President Obama speaks in prime time.

One group that may not be so happy are some of our colleagues in the U.S. political media, who've been insisting that a "no" vote by Congress on military action - delayed by Monday's diplomatic whirlwind - would be the apocalyptic end to President Obama's second term.

As both Greg Sargent and Jonathan Bernstein noted on Monday, unless America ends up getting bogged down in Syria's civil war, there's no way members of Congress - especially Republicans in Congress - are going to be any more or less likely to handle the debt ceiling and budget issues like adults, no matter what happens.

Which, for America at least, means the policy roller coaster experiment of September 2013 is only beginning. Grab your helmet and don't tell your parents.

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