“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” -Edmund Burke
Given President Obama taking his case for action to the world and Congress against Syria in response to their use of chemical weapons the above quote might be amended to say, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people become so war weary that they do nothing.”
I may be wrong, but it is appearing that President Obama’s push for retaliation against Syria for the use of chemical weapons is not likely to fly. And when that happens, what should he do?
I am not so bothered by this coming to pass. And that is not because I am a fan of Syria nor that I am war weary. It is because the time has come for America to finally accept that it has an interdependent relationship with the rest of the world.
If 9/11 didn’t communicate that we are as vulnerable as the rest of the world to foreign threats, I don’t know what kind of wake up call we need. To quote Tom Friedman, “the world really is flat” and it’s up to the world to collectively address bumps and crises.
America is rounding — but not yet turning — a corner where “going it alone” with any actions of global consequence is giving way to the reality that we really are unable to “do it alone.”
I don’t think President Obama is above saying, “I/we need your help to respond to this situation.” However saying that is as likely to be as effective as telling Wall Street that it needs to regulate itself better (when identifying legal loopholes to exploit vs. creating value are part of its modus operandi) or saying that Americans need to become educated in science and technology or watch the world pass us by.
So what should President Obama do when Congress votes him down on retaliating against Syria?
I am reminded of a principle that I have learned over the years initially as a psychotherapist, then as a coach and now as an adviser to executives and boards of directors. It’s something I teach to the people I work with. Words respond to words; actions respond to consequences. The key is to make the consequence fit the action and to not respond with either overkill (i.e. Iraq war) that in the end can’t be sustained or underkill (i.e., telling Wall Street you are going to eliminate some of its perks) which will not be effective
President Obama is locked into using words and verbal and logical arguments when instead he needs to share the above principle with Congress and the world perhaps by asking:
“Would we have a different response to Syria’s use chemical warfare if instead they had nuclear warfare capability? If so why?” Invite discussion. If the reality is the belief that chemical warfare is likely to be much more containable than a nuclear strike that could occur at some distance, let that come out and be questioned.
If they explain the above, then ask, “Would we have a different response if Syria had the capability of using chemical weapons via missiles or other means at a considerable distance that could reach Europe and beyond?” Invite further discussion. Hopefully that will increase the sense of real threat.
“Now do you believe that a response is called for to the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons?” Wait for an answer.
“Do you believe that if there is no response that other regimes or insurgent forces around the world are likely to get the idea that they can use chemical weapons with impunity?” Wait for an answer.
“Do you believe that actions such as those taken by the Syrian regime will respond to words or threats alone?” Wait for an answer.
“If not do you believe that what is necessary is some kind of actional consequence or sanction in order to lessen their escalation of the use of chemical weapons?” Wait for an answer.
Here is the topper: “Do you believe that the time has come for America to realize and accept that the truth that, “We can’t do it alone,” is in fact a reality and that what your words and votes are telling is that the consequence we should take to the global community is to not do anything and to see what happens? If that is not what you are telling me that please inform me otherwise.” Wait for an answer.
“And if by not doing anything with regard to this situation, Syria and other Middle Eastern fanatical or rogue regimes will feel freer to escalate against any and all of their nearby and distant enemies including Israel, Saudi Arabia through any means at their disposal are we prepared to allow for the destabilization that will ensue and again not do anything alone?” Wait for an answer.
Something I have learned from the research for two of my recent books, Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone and REAL INFLUENCE: Persuade Without Pushing and Gain Without Giving In is that it is less important what you tell others than what you enable them to self-discover and then tell you. Only then can you reasonably hope to influence them.
Something else I have learned as a psychotherapist and that is well known to the 12 Step community and its companion organization, Al Anon, is that sometimes you need to let people bottom out before they will accept and engage with treatment.
Has the time come for America to do just that with a world addicted to letting us be the “bad cop” believing we will never let things get too out of control? Is it too risky to roll the dice on that and say, “without you, count us out?”
Would the world fall apart or would other countries and nations that don’t want destabilization any more than we do realize that we aren’t bluffing with our, “We can’t AND WON’T do it alone” stance?