Thursday, September 26, 2013

What Does That Even Mean?

So Andrew Sullivan thinks President Obama was brilliant to make Russia "own" the Syria outcome; while another author says Obama still owns it. What does that even mean?!

Seriously. What does it mean to "own" Syria? Don't Syrians own Syria?

If Russia "owns" it, does it mean that Putin must do anything and pay any price to settle it? I mean, if he "owns" Syria he has responsibility, correct?

Is this just another version of the so-called Pottery Barn rule of "if you break it, you own it?" (and why am I not surprised that Thomas Friedman coined the rule's name?)

Because if so, it was a stupid concept then and it is still stupid now.

And given that it was coined over Iraq--a country President Obama walked away from in 2011 when he did not have to--it should be obvious that the rule is pointless.

Syrians own Syria. Other countries, Russia and America included, have interests in the outcome of the struggle in Syria. Why would we own the country more than Turks, Jordanians, Iraqis, Iranians, Lebanese, Hezbollah, or Russia--let alone Syrians themselves?

We have an interest in the fate of Assad and Syria more generally, and the region around Syria more generally than that. That doesn't mean America (or President Obama personally) "owns" Syria.

And it doesn't mean we can wash our hands of the outcome by just saying Russia "owns" the problem as if that means anything at all in the real world rather than Washington blame games to make sure the buck stops somewhere else. We won't like Putin's solutions to protect his interests.

Let's grow up and work the problems. We may not succeed, but we can't count on anyone else to look after our interests, can we?