If there’s one person I need to peel the densely layered onion of this Syria mess, it would have to be Roger ‘ten thumbs’ Cohen.
BERLIN — At dinner the other night, perusing the debacle that is Syria, a German friend observed: “It’s the post-American world — and that means chaos.” We were joined by John Kornblum, the former U.S. ambassador to Germany, whose verdict was similar: “What you’re seeing is the steady break-up of the postwar system.”
I sincerely doubt his pals said any of those things any more than Roger simply heard what he wanted to hear. I’m convinced of that because the following arguments, all designed to give you the existential heebee jeebies, amount to a fragrant bowl of bubbling Cohenbabble. Sprinkled with shimmerin’ portents and talismans. Now, with all his hopes thrown to the fates, his hat to the horizon, what else could Roger possibly call his windblown bleat than . . “An Anchorless World”? Sniff:
The United States, through its secretary of state and president respectively, promises an “unbelievably small” military response to the gassing of hundreds of Syrian children by President Bashar al-Assad, then vows that “the United States military doesn’t do pinpricks,” and then backs away.
And, so the what? Maybe you deciphered all the murky omens scattered-about there before I did. I admit, it took me a moment and a couple of readings to gather the profound. But I think it’s mostly because America hasn’t yet cornholed Syria with a Tomahawk-dong that Roger is having a hard time falling asleep at night.
Britain abandons its closest ally at crunch time. The European Union is divided, Germany silent, France left dangling, and NATO an absentee. If there are other pillars of the trans-Atlantic alliance, do let me know.
. . and having apparently crawled themselves out of America’s back pocket, the world’s puny countries are now running around on the linoleum, banging into the kitchen appliances. You can imagine, if this defiance continues, that we could have ourselves some bona fide chaos. Roger might like to invent a League Of Countries, or some such, to manage them all.
Vladimir Putin steps into the Western void, spurred by an off-the-cuff remark in London from John Kerry (that he himself seemed to dismiss), and suddenly Assad’s Syria promises to give up to international supervision the chemical weapons whose existence it has previously denied.
This is the nonsense I’m talking about, Cohen-wise. If Syria giving up its chemical weapons amounts to some timeless embarrassment for Obama, then Roger should go ahead and make the case. Because the surrender of tons of Sarin looks awfully good for the president right about now. It looks a lot like an Epic Win, really.
Obama uses an awkward prime-time address to say dictators “depend upon the world to look the other way” when they commit atrocities — and so he will, well, pursue a “diplomatic path” for now.
“The ogre,” as W.H. Auden wrote, “does what ogres can.” It is safe to say that no ogre the world over, least of all in Damascus, trembles today.
It’s safe to say why Assad made the surprising concessions. He was laughing so violently at the thought of his command and control installations getting vaporized that he threw up his hands and cried “Whatever, you clowns!” In Roger’s world, the U.S. military busily locking in its Syrian positions is less an Earthly motivation than Vlad Putin, for whatever reason, getting on the phone and asking ‘pretty please maybe give up your WMDs?’ By God’s hooks. These first among all today’s recent developments have left Cohen squinting at the sun and reflecting upon life, which is fine.