Obama missile strikes on Syria trumped by rejection of his interventionist logic

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This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

President Obama is equivocating on Syria – again.  His first equivocation was demanding Congress authorize the use of force.  Now that possibility is in danger of collapse.  Even a close affirmative vote in Congress throws responsibility back on the President.

With the international community reluctant if not opposed to America’s missile strikes, President Obama has found some more wiggle room by floating Russia’s last minute plan for Syria to give over its chemical weapon stock to international inspectors.   How such a plan can be executed and verified in a short time is difficult to imagine.   How much chemical weapons will be found is another issue.  Can the President risk the possibility that there are less chemical weapons to be found than merits this amount of American and international attention?

The President’s gamble to find support for missile strikes has been trumped by the nation’s and world’s unwillingness to follow his interventionist logic.  Outside the perpetual war hawks, no one except the French are interested. Even our newly militant ally wants a way out.

Tonight is the night.  The media will be overloaded with pundits and the President’s speech writers will be working until the last moment.  When the President addresses the nation he has to have all his ducks in a row.  Whatever the President says, though, we know it will only be half the truth, if that.

Meanwhile, as the Syria debate unfolded last week, I was touring Atlanta and speaking in church settings before people who can hardly find Syria on the map.  To those who can find Syria, their interest was primarily centered on Israel/Palestine. Some of those I spoke to have traveled there and are committed justice seekers.  Like all of us, they wring their hands as the plight of Palestinians becomes worse and Syria dominates the airwaves and the President’s attention. The peace negotiations – whatever they were – are in suspended animation.

Flipping through USA Today before a clergy breakfast I was to address, I noticed Robert Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral was being dismantled.  It struck me as a relevant symbolic statement on the world situation.

A central part of the story is that personalized memorial stones bought for thousands of dollars and to be maintained for eternity are being ripped out by the Crystal Cathedral’s new owners, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange County.  How ironic how eternity is compromised as one bankrupt church passes its sacred territory to another.  What with the pedophile suits bankrupting one Catholic diocese after another, I’m amazed that a Catholic diocese has the money to buy anything except top flight defense lawyers.

Resting certain in the sinfulness of the church, I then noticed John Kerry, our erstwhile Secretary of State, lobbying the European Union to back off from its decision to halt aid to Israeli institutions based or connected to Jewish settlements in the West Bank.  With incredibly twisted logic, Kerry wants to reward Israel simply for agreeing to enter negotiations.  Israel doesn’t have to give up anything.  Israel doesn’t have to negotiate anything.  Israel is rewarded for showing up.

Amazing how the honest broker operates, arguing Israel’s case as the way to benefit Palestinians.  Is the honest broker as corrupt as the churches we rightly ridicule?

I don’t know what the world will do without the Hour of Power.  Even if it continues on television without the backdrop of the Crystal Cathedral it will never be the same.  Tuning in, one could always find American and Christian optimism in perfect harmony.

“If you dream it, you can do it!” Reverend Schuller often exclaimed.  That’s the confidence President Obama needs to project this evening.  The problem is that Sculler’s extended congregation were true believers while an increasingly skeptical American public isn’t cutting the President any WMD slack.

About Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is retired Director and Professor of Jewish Studies at Baylor University and author of The Heartbeat of the Prophetic which can be found at Amazon and www.newdiasporabooks.com

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