Clem Sunter

Vladimir is a fox too

2013-09-12 08:35

Clem Sunter

Last week, I commended both Obama and Cameron for behaving like foxes and "looking out" at public opinion before "looking in" to pursuing a military strike on Syria. Hedgehogs like their predecessors would have gone in regardless of the consequences. Now the game has changed in a totally unpredictable way - a true unknown unknown or a development you didn't know you didn't know.

A few days ago at a public briefing, John Kerry made a comment that many believe he meant as a rhetorical one. He said that in the unlikely event that Syria handed over its arsenal of chemical weapons to the UN, America would consider deferring a strike. Ping! Vladimir Putin pounced on this remark like a Kremlin fox and said okay, we'll do it. Russia has since made all the running in bringing Syria and particularly President Assad to the table to turn the idea into reality. It is gaining momentum in the international community and at the UN because a diplomatic solution, in contrast to military action, is less likely to set off a wave of unintended consequences which quickly go beyond the control of individual players to stop.

Obama has rightly asked Congress to delay the vote in order to keep the military strike as a credible threat and thereby increase the chances of a deal. Moreover, if the initiative is revealed purely as a delaying tactic for Syria to pursue ways of hiding its chemical weapons in more secure locations, Obama will have a much stronger case to put to Congress to gain its approval. As things currently stand, he might well have lost the vote in the House of Representatives which would have adversely affected his standing as the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth.

A further benefit is that, in the positive scenario where a deal is struck, a new era of co-operation between America and Russia may be ushered in as opposed to a new Cold War. Of course, the civil war in Syria will continue but the chances of ending it may even rise in a second UN-brokered deal made possible by the first one.

In a letter published in The New York Times today, Putin said that he disagreed with the idea of American exceptionalism put forward by Obama in his Tuesday address. Instead, he summarised his belief as the following at the end of the article: "We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord's blessing, we must not forget that God created us equal."

All in all, the final outcome as determined by leaders who have become foxes may be vastly superior to one which would have been a battle between hedgehogs wearing ideologically tinted spectacles in a winner-takes-all frame of mind. Barack, David and Vladimir can all wave their bushy tails should the tide turn in Syria towards peace.

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Read more on:    syria  |  syria conflict

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