I was asked today what president Obama should do in Syria. It all hit me at once that the question should not be what President Obama should do but what Russian president Vladimir Putin should do in Syria. President Obama is in a familar lose-lose position, but one perhaps never more dire. Any heavy-handed American action in Syria is expected to create a domino effect in which Iran will attack Israel, and who knows what happens from there? Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin is expected to veto any UN resolution to punish Assad's sarin gas atrocities on civilians yet the world is to dutifully show up for the Sochi Olympics in Russia this winter. What they hell is up with that?
I have been writing for hours on different forums, Twitter and even the "contact us" facility on the White House web site urging that no hasty action be taken--John McCain's incontinence not withstanding--and that the atrocities in Syria now be looked at as the serious-enough "game-changer" that the hash treatment of gays apparently was not to bring about a change in venue or a boycott of the Russian Olympics. In every post and comment I tried to make it crystal clear that I am not talking about a symbolic United States boycott but an emergency (perhaps US-led) global boycott of the Sochi games. There is time to at least try to get commitment from so many countries that Russia and Putin will have to face the grave finacial loss an Olympics abandoned and a historical disgracing if they are not persuaded to side with greater civilization in condemnation of Assad's atrocities. Depite my efforts, many repondents reacted with typical dismissivness saying that it won't work and it's just symbolic blah, blah woof woof. Hog wash! This has never been done before and it's worth a try.
There is a monumental difference between a symbolic boycott by one country--even a central fixture like the United States--and an unprecedented refusal by enough countries (if not all) to participate and shut down or relocate the games unless Russia accepts it's RESPONSIBILITY TO CIVILIZATION and at the very least does not exercize its veto on a UN resolution to punish Assad's regime.
There are of course many persons and organizations already urging relocation or boycott due to Russia's backward hard-line policies against gay persons--not to mention tacit approval of thuggish behavior by Russian hooligans acting on their own to terrorize gay folk. But the sarin attack in Syria with Russian-manufactured gas far ups the ante. If gassing civilians is OK, Russia is no place for such an event as the Olympics. This may be the easiest call ever. This you we simply can not have both ways.
Many Americans believe that leadership means bloody reaction ASAP. But real leadership means getting it right and touching all the bases while avoiding hazzards which can trip you up. If that means not shooting and using economic and political pressure to keep Iran's and other's guns in their holsters, so be it. Please join me in making your case to everyone who might be persuaded. The US can not bomb Syria and then go play hockey in Russia. There will be hell to pay that we can not control and no sports event is worth that.