By Erik Springer ’15, PoliticOle Columnist
On Saturday, the United States and Russia struck a deal to remove Syria’s chemical weapons. Rather than welcoming this deal, some media outlets and members of Congress are declaring this a victory for Vladimir Putin and an embarrassing failure of leadership by President Obama. The administration’s skepticism of the deal is only compounding the cries of weakness.
This brings us to a ridiculous moment in international relations. Why should it matter if Putin is the architect of peace? All Americans should embrace this solution. Last Tuesday the President went on TV to plea for Congressional approval of his strike plan. The speech was nearly irrelevant by the time the President gave it, as Russia announced their proposal mere hours before Obama spoke. The country and Congress were against strikes then, but now everyone—including the administration—seems wary of a deal brokered by Russia.
News outlets from Fox News to CNN continue to post headlines like “Top House Democrat and Republican agree Putin leading on Syria.” Why does this matter? Why does this even deserve an article? Of COURSE Putin is leading on Syria—as their most powerful ally and a member of the U.N. Security Council, Russia can block any action the rest of the world might try to take against Syria. They are the only country with the ability to lead on Syria.
Apparently the United States cannot stand not getting all of the credit. At the same time, our overly criticized President deserves a lot more credit than he is receiving. As John Kerry said yesterday, “the combination of the threat of force and the willingness to pursue diplomacy helped to bring us to this moment.”
Despite the rescheduling of Congressional votes and Obama’s clear lack of support for invasion over the past two weeks, one thing is undeniable: he forced Russia’s hand. Asking for Congressional backing may have been politically motivated or a gesture of deference, but few people refute the fact that Obama could still order a strike today if he wanted to—with or without the approval of Congress. Russia never would have asked for the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons without the President’s threat of intervention.
If Russia dupes the United States or fails to force Assad to destroy his supply of chemical weapons, then Obama may be forced to act unilaterally. Or Americans may be insulted enough to support the air strikes he sought for the past two weeks. Either way, the newly brokered deal has made it painfully obvious how much America cares about our collective ego. Diplomacy won, luckily. So did Putin. And so did we.
Until our skepticism is proven right, let’s all just breathe a sigh of relief that the United States can avoid military involvement in another conflict far beyond our capabilities to understand or solve. And it wouldn’t hurt to write Putin a thank you card.
Erik Springer ’15 is an English and Economics major from Golden Valley, Minnesota. Erik is a regular PoliticOle Columnist. Contact him at email@example.com.