The US Senate hearing was at times heated, yet Senator John McCain passed the time by reading the frequently asked questions on poker and playing poker on his iPhone during the hearing. One might expect James Bond, 007, to casually play a hand of poker as the world’s fate hung in the balance in a Hollywood adaptation of Ian Fleming’s famous spy.
Yet, the US Senate seems to be a far more casual atmosphere as the use of chemical weapons, once considered an absolute war-starter, have become no more than a poker chip in the stakes that may determine the future of not only the Middle East but the entire planet. McCain, formerly Republican contender to be ruler of the western powers, is now quite hawkish in insisting that Syria has crossed the not-so-imaginary red line in choosing to gas its own people to the tune of 1,400+ confirmed deaths.
Yet the balance of senators and representatives in congress still weigh the political consequences of voting for the President’s request that congress should have a voice in the determination to strike, even in a limited fashion, in this powder keg of the world. And the debate goes on…
World War I, the concentration camps of Nazi Germany in World War II, the Iraq-Iran war, and now the Middle East seem to have taught a poor lesson to elected officials who cannot see that some universal truths must have consequences. Even in the United Nations it was adopted in the charter that the use of such heinous weapons of war could not be tolerated. Yet the debate continues.
The United States was founded by words as “When in the course of human events … tyrants…” Yet this was an internal conflict and a disjoint band of colonies determined that the tyranny would not be tolerated. Today this is a foreign conflict that may spill across borders and infect the broader world economy as we see in oil and other natural resource markets.
And still the congress debates… America determined after World War II that the gassing in concentration camps was a sin that would never again be tolerated by any people, in any nation of the world. It was a horror that will be compared to the maiming by bombs and other warfare in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. But it is a horror we know today and must commit that it cannot go unpunished.
There must exist “Red Lines” or lines in the dirt, everywhere in the world, that their very existence is never questioned by any party. Without these universal expectations society cannot remain strong. When we question these values, evil has won the first battle. But the war is based upon our long-term commitment to principles that forces using weapons of mass destruction cannot prevail.
The discussion must be in bringing the violators to justice and how that is accomplished. Iran, Iraq, Syria and all of the Middle East, and we do not forget Israel, survives because there remains some semblance of a belief that logic keeps those who possess the power to destroy with great weapons from pulling the trigger. This time, and in this part of the world, we are one step closer today to forgetting how to not pull that trigger.
Let’s hope Senator McCain and others in Washington play their poker hands a little better in the future. We may not have winning cards in the hole the next time.