From Russia With Love (or maybe not)

Putin

Frank Weathers has the story. 

It seems that President Vladimir Putin is breaking new ice for Russian heads of state. He is now an op-ed author for the New York Times. Frank has nothing but praise for President Putin’s prose. I, on the other hand, look at it a bit differently. 

President Putin wrote an op-ed piece in which he discussed America’s recent foreign policy. He accurately said that we’ve gotten into too many random military encounters lately, and that we are turning too often to force in our international engagements. 

He also said that America’s way of dealing with other countries has become a matter of “relying on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan ‘you’re either with us or against us.’” I think he may have been talking about things like the obvious bullying that President Obama engaged in to coerce foreign nations to refuse sanctuary to whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

It is interesting indeed that this particular strategy backfired with President Putin, who, alone of all the heads of state in the world, took Mr Snowden in. President Obama was so miffed by this that he canceled a pre-G20 meeting with the Russian President, an action that, honestly folks, sounded personal and grade school to me. 

President Putin goes on in his op-ed to remark about something that is quite serious: Nuclear proliferation. He evidently sees this growing push to develop the bomb by impoverished countries who cannot feed their own people as a defensive measure on their part. He is right again when he says, “If you have the bomb, they can’t touch you.” 

In other words, nobody talks about randomly lobbing Tomahawk missiles at nations who have the bomb, no matter how egregious we find their behavior in other matters. 

This raises an important question: Is America’s international policy, with its bully-boy tactics and constant deployment of force against small nations who can’t fight back, actually pushing smaller nations to follow a policy of developing nuclear weapons? 

That is a discussion for another day, but it is certainly one worth having. 

Obama

Having said all this, there is one thing I want Public Catholic readers to understand about President Putin’s op-ed piece. That one thing is that President Putin is using the op-ed to side-step our president and lobby the American people directly. 

I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing. 

After all, he’s not paying a bunch of lobbyists to slime their way around the Capitol greasing campaign accounts and non-campaign pacs with their donations in order to convince our elected officials to vote against us. He is going out there in the court of public opinion and making his case in a straight-forward and direct way. We know where he’s coming from and what he’s saying. We do not have to listen to hours of lies from bought and paid for cable news talking heads interviewing bought and paid for think-tankers and bought and paid for politicians while they try to propagandize us. 

We don’t have to sort through what President Putin is saying to decide what he really thinks. It’s all there, for the reading. 

But we should be aware and never forget that he ain’t us. 

He is the President of Russia and the interests he’s promoting are the interests of Russia. That doesn’t make what he’s saying wrong, and that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t listen to him. Quite the contrary. That makes what he’s saying important and worthy of our thoughtful analysis. 

Odd as this sounds, I have a higher opinion of his motives than I do our cable news people. He, at least, is working for his country. 

Don’t Stop Praying, But We May Be Out of the War-Making Woods

Way out

I don’t think there are any lambs in this particular gathering, but it appears as if the lions may decide to, if not lie down together, at least make war another day.

Presidents Putin of Russia, Rouhani of Iran and Assad of Syria have been talking about a proposal to remove chemical weapons from Syria to Russia for several days now. I first read about this before the weekend, but didn’t write about it because the sources were publications inside Russia that I didn’t know anything about.

Haaretz, an Israeli news outlet, has also been running stories about it. The proposal became quasi official yesterday and today the New York Times wrote that President Obama has “tentatively embraced” the idea.

I expect that the war-promoting members of the press (which is a substantial portion of the press) will react to this with an analysis that President Obama has been “weak” and went to Congress “looking for a way out,” etc. I want to say, in anticipation of that, that if this compromise works, a good portion of the reason why is that this president made the decision to involve the American people, through their representatives, in this debate.

I’ve been critical of this attempt to take this country into another unnecessary war from the outset. I expect that I am going to be equally critical of the inevitable future attempts to do the same thing. Our press has become a powerful lobby for armed intervention all over the globe. There is one cable news network in particular that never stops agitating for war. The place where they want this country to use armed force changes, but the demand that we do it is almost constant.

I am not a pacifist. I believe in self-defense.

I am most definitely a patriot. From the soles of my feet to the hair of my head, I am an American.

I believe without equivocation that if we do not take an honest and critical look at this situation, we are dooming ourselves. I’ll write more about this, but we are spending ourselves into bankruptcy to finance a war machine that is out of touch with reality. Then, we are being sold on wars and “military actions” one right after the other to use it and justify it.

War has become our major industry.

This cannot go on if we are to survive. We need an economy that is based on manufacturing the goods and services of the people of this country, not an economy that is based on manufacturing weapons.

As I said in the title of this post, Don’t stop Praying.

We are not out of the woods on this yet.

And the peacemakers in this situation are hardly peaceable people.

But it looks as if there is a real possibility that we will be able to avoid firing Tomahawk missiles at the people of Syria. There may even be a possibility that we can let them work out their own civil war without shedding American blood.

We need to continue praying for peace, and for our Christian brothers and sisters who are so very vulnerable in this war. I’ve read that President Assad has treated the Christian minority in Syria with tolerance and that the rebels have targeted Christian villages for attacks and attempts at forced conversions to Islam. Again, this information has come largely from the Russian press and the Russians have a stake in this war, so I’ve been slow to write about it.

But, the Christians in Syria who have contacted me have said much the same thing.

I am grateful to the Holy Father for his powerful leadership in this matter. I am also grateful to President Obama for making the decision to allow Congress to vote on it.

I hope that is a precedent-setting move that future presidents will take seriously.

Don’t stop praying. It appears to be working.

Sabbath Rest and Thinking About War

Syria

My husband and I went to Sunday vigil mass a couple of hours ago. We followed that with dinner in a nice restaurant.

My Sabbath has begun, which means that I’m not going to blog on events in the next 24 hours unless events themselves force me to it. However, I want to leave you with a few things to think about before next week, when we take up the question of Syria in earnest.

Be assured that when we do get back to this, I am going to give every courteously-stated viewpoint a hearing in the comboxes. This is a serious matter. I will not try to bamboozle Public Catholic’s readers into one outlook or position. I want all of us to pray and think for ourselves.

In the meantime, please pray that God will lead this nation.

Here is some information for you to think over.

Official portrait of Francis

1. Pope Francis on US intervention in Syria. From LifeSiteNews

ROME, August 28, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Pope Francis, as well as other Christian leaders in the Middle East and around Europe are sounding the alarm of a possible global conflict should the US and other western powers launch an attack on Syria.In an interview with Vatican Radio yesterday, the Syrian Chaldean Catholic bishop of Aleppo, Antoine Audo, said that armed intervention in Syria could unleash a “world war.” “If there is an armed intervention, that would mean, I believe, a world war.

That risk has returned,” he said.

The Syrian Chaldean Catholic bishop of Aleppo, Antoine Audo, warned of a possible “world war” if the West intervenes in Syria.

The comments follow an urgent appeal by Pope Francis this weekend for the world’s powers not to intervene in the escalating Syrian conflict. On Sunday, Pope Francis called on the international community to do everything they could to avoid military action, calling for them “to be more sensitive to this tragic situation and make every effort to help the beloved Syrian nation find a solution to a war that sows destruction and death.”

“The increase in violence in a war between brothers, with the proliferation of massacres and atrocities, that we all have been able to see in the terrible images of these days, leads me once again raise my voice that the clatter of arms may cease,” he said during the Angelus.

“It is not confrontation that offers hope to resolve problems, but rather the ability to meet and dialogue.”Bishop Audo added to Vatican Radio, “We hope that the Pope’s call for real dialogue between the warring parties to find a solution can be a first step to stop the fighting.”L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s quasi-official paper, also criticised the threats by Western powers, accusing US President Obama of pursuing a policy of “political expediency” rather “than of substance.”

 

David Cameron official

2. Great Britain on US Intervention in Syria. From Fox News

British lawmakers on Thursday voted against military intervention in Syria, in a major setback for both British Prime Minister David Cameron and the Obama administration in their push to punish the Assad regime for an alleged chemical weapons strike.

Cameron, who has been aligned with President Obama in advocating a tough response, indicated after the vote that he would abide by the outcome. The measure was narrowly defeated, by 285 votes to 272 votes.

The outcome raises serious questions for Obama, who has not yet made a decision on the way forward in Syria but had indicated his administration would need international support for any strike. After failing to win support for an anti-Assad resolution before the U.N. Security Council, U.S. officials were looking to allies like Britain and France to build a coalition for action in Syria.


Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/08/30/syria-strike-push-hits-hurdles/#ixzz2dbGjfbSi
 

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3. President Obama’s statement on Syria. From the White House

Statement by the President on Syria

Rose Garden

1:52 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Ten days ago, the world watched in horror as men, women and children were massacred in Syria in the worst chemical weapons attack of the 21st century.

Yesterday the United States presented a powerful case that the Syrian government was responsible for this attack on its own people.Our intelligence shows the Assad regime and its forces preparing to use chemical weapons, launching rockets in the highly populated suburbs of Damascus, and acknowledging that a chemical weapons attack took place.  And all of this corroborates what the world can plainly see — hospitals overflowing with victims; terrible images of the dead.

All told, well over 1,000 people were murdered.  Several hundred of them were children — young girls and boys gassed to death by their own government.

This attack is an assault on human dignity.  It also presents a serious danger to our national security.  It risks making a mockery of the global prohibition on the use of chemical weapons.  It endangers our friends and our partners along Syria’s borders, including Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq.  It could lead to escalating use of chemical weapons, or their proliferation to terrorist groups who would do our people harm.In a world with many dangers, this menace must be confronted.

Now, after careful deliberation, I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets.  This would not be an open-ended intervention.  We would not put boots on the ground.  Instead, our action would be designed to be limited in duration and scope.

But I’m confident we can hold the Assad regime accountable for their use of chemical weapons, deter this kind of behavior, and degrade their capacity to carry it out.Our military has positioned assets in the region.  The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs has informed me that we are prepared to strike whenever we choose.  Moreover, the Chairman has indicated to me that our capacity to execute this mission is not time-sensitive; it will be effective tomorrow, or next week, or one month from now.  And I’m prepared to give that order.

But having made my decision as Commander-in-Chief based on what I am convinced is our national security interests, I’m also mindful that I’m the President of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy.  I’ve long believed that our power is rooted not just in our military might, but in our example as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

And that’s why I’ve made a second decision:  I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people’s representatives in Congress.

Over the last several days, we’ve heard from members of Congress who want their voices to be heard.  I absolutely agree. So this morning, I spoke with all four congressional leaders, and they’ve agreed to schedule a debate and then a vote as soon as Congress comes back into session. In the coming days, my administration stands ready to provide every member with the information they need to understand what happened in Syria and why it has such profound implications for America’s national security.  And all of us should be accountable as we move forward, and that can only be accomplished with a vote.

I’m confident in the case our government has made without waiting for U.N. inspectors.  I’m comfortable going forward without the approval of a United Nations Security Council that, so far, has been completely paralyzed and unwilling to hold Assad accountable.  As a consequence, many people have advised against taking this decision to Congress, and undoubtedly, they were impacted by what we saw happen in the United Kingdom this week when the Parliament of our closest ally failed to pass a resolution with a similar goal, even as the Prime Minister supported taking action.

Yet, while I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization, I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course, and our actions will be even more effective.  We should have this debate, because the issues are too big for business as usual.  And this morning, John Boehner, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell agreed that this is the right thing to do for our democracy.

A country faces few decisions as grave as using military force, even when that force is limited.  I respect the views of those who call for caution, particularly as our country emerges from a time of war that I was elected in part to end.  But if we really do want to turn away from taking appropriate action in the face of such an unspeakable outrage, then we must acknowledge the costs of doing nothing.

Here’s my question for every member of Congress and every member of the global community:  What message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price?  What’s the purpose of the international system that we’ve built if a prohibition on the use of chemical weapons that has been agreed to by the governments of 98 percent of the world’s people and approved overwhelmingly by the Congress of the United States is not enforced? Make no mistake — this has implications beyond chemical warfare.

If we won’t enforce accountability in the face of this heinous act, what does it say about our resolve to stand up to others who flout fundamental international rules?  To governments who would choose to build nuclear arms?  To terrorist who would spread biological weapons?  To armies who carry out genocide? We cannot raise our children in a world where we will not follow through on the things we say, the accords we sign, the values that define us. So just as I will take this case to Congress, I will also deliver this message to the world.

While the U.N. investigation has some time to report on its findings, we will insist that an atrocity committed with chemical weapons is not simply investigated, it must be confronted.I don’t expect every nation to agree with the decision we have made.  Privately we’ve heard many expressions of support from our friends.  But I will ask those who care about the writ of the international community to stand publicly behind our action.

And finally, let me say this to the American people:  I know well that we are weary of war.  We’ve ended one war in Iraq.  We’re ending another in Afghanistan.  And the American people have the good sense to know we cannot resolve the underlying conflict in Syria with our military.

In that part of the world, there are ancient sectarian differences, and the hopes of the Arab Spring have unleashed forces of change that are going to take many years to resolve.  And that’s why we’re not contemplating putting our troops in the middle of someone else’s war.

Instead, we’ll continue to support the Syrian people through our pressure on the Assad regime, our commitment to the opposition, our care for the displaced, and our pursuit of a political resolution that achieves a government that respects the dignity of its people.But we are the United States of America, and we cannot and must not turn a blind eye to what happened in Damascus.

Out of the ashes of world war, we built an international order and enforced the rules that gave it meaning.  And we did so because we believe that the rights of individuals to live in peace and dignity depends on the responsibilities of nations.  We aren’t perfect, but this nation more than any other has been willing to meet those responsibilities.So to all members of Congress of both parties, I ask you to take this vote for our national security.

I am looking forward to the debate.  And in doing so, I ask you, members of Congress, to consider that some things are more important than partisan differences or the politics of the moment. Ultimately, this is not about who occupies this office at any given time; it’s about who we are as a country.

I believe that the people’s representatives must be invested in what America does abroad, and now is the time to show the world that America keeps our commitments.  We do what we say.  And we lead with the belief that right makes might — not the other way around.We all know there are no easy options.

But I wasn’t elected to avoid hard decisions.  And neither were the members of the House and the Senate.

I’ve told you what I believe, that our security and our values demand that we cannot turn away from the massacre of countless civilians with chemical weapons.  And our democracy is stronger when the President and the people’s representatives stand together.

I’m ready to act in the face of this outrage.  Today I’m asking Congress to send a message to the world that we are ready to move forward together as one nation.

Thanks very much.

END

2:02 P.M. EDT


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