Three key things happened with Syria over the weekend for me.
One, Trump and co pulled the trigger. Two, Jacinda Ardern stood on the Gold Coast saying she could understand why they did it, but it really needed to go back to the United Nations for diplomacy. And three, I watched The Final Year, the documentary that covered Obama's last year in office, 2016. The stars of the film were the president, John Kerry, Samantha Powers the UN rep for America, Susan Rice the Chief Security Adviser who barely featured at all, and Ben Rhodes -Obama's foreign policy speech man.
Now, although the theme of the film was the final year and all the things on their agenda, what it was really about was Syria, and how that lone conflict came to dominate their every waking minute. Their tool of choice for solving the issue was diplomacy. If you followed proceedings at the time you know how it all ends, hence it was still an issue on Saturday when Trump pulled the trigger. Because diplomacy is a bust, diplomacy is saddled down with idealism and false hope.
Much was made of the fact no Secretary of State had spent as much time as John Kerry out of America on a single issue. But that's only interesting if it leads somewhere, which it didn't.
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By the end of the film, they were offering up excuses as to why it had ended in the mess it had. Remembering of course that a couple of years before, Obama had offered up his famed red line warning over chemical weapons. A red line that was crossed, and in retaliation they launched a solid burst of…diplomacy. Which led you know where.
To Obama's credit, part of his argument was you only take military action if you know you can win it. Which is where Syria is such a mess. If Assad goes, who runs the place. That's Russia's argument of course, they claim they're fighting Isis. And Obama cited Afghanistan and Iraq as failed attempts at American intervention that ended up being a shambles, and he's not wrong.
But what the Obama administration held dear, and the likes of Jacinda Ardern still believe, is that the United Nations is your answer to everything, when it is so clearly shown in the film it's the answer to nothing. Endless meetings with claim and counterclaim, and the inevitable veto.
Lord knows how many times John Kerry circled the globe. How many handshakes, arm twists, hotel rooms, plane rides, and for what. Two years later, diplomacy an abject failure, and the threat of weaponry the only real chance to actually draw a line in the sand as opposed to talking about it. It's ideology laid bare, good intentions, the preferred road.
If it actually worked, but in still advocating a failed strategy, we need to be asking all those like Ardern who still claim it's the answer and clearly haven't watched the film, just how many kids people like Assad have to kill with gas and nerve agent and chlorine before they wake up and realise the United Nations is, has and won't be doing anything to stop it.