September 10th, 2013
11:44 PM ET

What I'm reading

By Fareed Zakaria

What Cuban missile crisis says about Syria

“The most useful lesson that our current president could draw from the Cuban missile crisis would be to emulate Kennedy in slowing down the seemingly inexorable rush to war. With his controversial move to include Congress and the American people in the debate, Obama laid himself open to charges of indecisiveness. But he succeeded in buying a little time. This has allowed a possible alternative to military action to emerge,” writes Michael Dobbs in the Washington Post.

“Next to popular support, time is the most valuable of all political commodities. Like Kennedy before him, Obama now has an opportunity to escape from the box that he created with his Syrian red line. But for the gambit to succeed, he will also have to maintain the credible threat of force against the Syrian regime. He cannot allow his bluff to be called. It is a delicate balancing act.”


“Many skeptics of the chemical weapons taboo note that since not all chemical weapons are the same, international responses should be calibrated to the specific context in which they are used,” write Sohail H. Hashmi and Jon Western in Foreign Affairs. “It is true that there is significant variation in how chemical agents are disseminated, how they inflict harm, the speed with which they act, and the longevity of their effects. But the chemical weapons ban does not and should not distinguish between types of chemical agents for two reasons.”

“First, a simple rule is always more enforceable and effective than a complicated and qualified one. Opening up the ban by trying to identify specific exceptions and qualifications runs the risk of dramatically weakening the global prohibition. And second, while some chemical agents do incapacitate rather than kill, historically these have not been the agents stockpiled by militaries for use in war. For insurgents and terrorists seeking to level the playing field with more powerful adversaries, the incentive is to acquire chemical agents of maximum lethality.”


soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. ✠RZ✠

    Why is it that making having, and obtaining chemical weapons does not warrant any real action ? But only once they're used ? This is like putting a loaded 44 in a baby's crib. WHAT DO YOU THINK IS GOING TO HAPPEN ?!? DUHHHH !!

    September 11, 2013 at 12:14 am | Reply
  2. ✠RZ✠

    I'm good with the Obama, Nobody in their right mind really wants war. Russia and China do not want war, and their economies (along with the majority of the world's countries) will not suffer from the absence of war. And although an interesting turn of events, Russia's response to resolve the current Syria issue is not entirely surprising as it gives Obama a way out. The downside to this is that Obama must now face the looming disasters at home (fiscal cliff, unemployment, federal reserve gone wild, etc, etc). And somehow I doubt Russia and China will provide any way for Obama to get out of that complex mess.

    September 11, 2013 at 12:34 am | Reply
    • vonrock

      No, we had bunch of airfields to bomb, a few we don't know where they are. Hillary says gotta destroy if you want people to hear you. Poor Obama, the downside is ' you know that hole in the ground ? yeah, he doesn't know the difference yet.

      September 11, 2013 at 3:36 am | Reply
  3. vonrock

    Old News. I guess Hillary must of told him he has to bomb to make friends and enemies. throw the baggage out.

    September 11, 2013 at 3:28 am | Reply
  4. abalechichi

    This Roojoom Track is all about the chemical weapons taboo,305/understanding-the-chemical-weapons-taboo,1565

    September 11, 2013 at 6:52 am | Reply
  5. j. von hettlingen

    So many people in recent weeks have been blaming Obama for having drawn that "red-line" and now that he's stewing in his own juice. Drawing that "red-line" was a right thing to do. Had he not done so, Assad would continue gassing his own citizens. Now that he can be held accountable for these atrocities.

    September 11, 2013 at 7:13 am | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      Obama has to put up with nasty remarks, not only on his policies, but also his person. Most people have underestimated him. His dithering had at times been deceptive. He is intelligent enough not to make himself a laughing stock of the international community.

      September 11, 2013 at 7:15 am | Reply
      • ✠ RZ ✠

        Pretty sure "the white house fool" has been called worse by better. But at least it appears that the voice of the nation and the world at large is being heard. Moving forward, it is apparently the "credible threat of US military action" being touted and reverberated through the mainstream media as the motivation for Assad to now relinquish his chemical weapons. This in itself is very interesting, but more so is virtually the complete absence of any "credible threat of military action" by the rest of the world. Why is it that the "white house" is so concerned but the rest of the world is content to sit and watch?

        September 11, 2013 at 9:03 am |
  6. Marlene

    Back then in the old days, there was no NATO alliance and America was strong. Now, NATO alliance countries together are much stronger than USA. USA collaboration with non-NATO members such as China or S.Korea, are further weakening USA position globally. It is time to let France, Sweden, Great Britain, Italy, Turkey, ... to become the NATO leaders.

    September 11, 2013 at 7:35 am | Reply

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