some thoughts in support of never following “the news”)
There are two things that are no cause for worry: that which can be fixed, and that which cannot be fixed. What can be fixed should be fixed — so what’s there to worry? What cannot be fixed cannot be fixed — so what’s there to worry? – Chassidic master Rabbi Michel of Zelotchov
After an extended visit in the states, Marcia and I returned to Israel wondering whether to keep up with President Barak Obama’s public angst about Syria. We had heard (almost hourly in the news while in America) that Obama had turned his prodigious intellect toward “deciding something” about Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons. (One imagines the president and his right hand men, UN Representative, Samantha, and National Security Adviser, Sue, as they huddle together at the White House pondering getting really tough with Assad and his enormous Sarin stockpile.)
But the president’s extended public airing of his options has confused many ordinary “folks,” as Obama likes to call us.
Many folks suspect that Obama’s daily airing of threats, his circular rhetoric and his scholarly indecision has been unwise at best. Most have concluded that the president’s protracted inner-outer debate about a token military strike at Syria has only served to increase the existential threat to Israel, the likelihood of heightened terrorism against the US and the further suffering of Syrian citizens.
Even beginning poker players, folks believe, know better than to show their hands…
But we have been here before; at 9/11, in Iraq and at Benghazi, to name a few. Is it really that difficult to project an outcome now? No. There’ll be foundering, fumbling and failure followed by a declaration of victory. Mission accomplished. No matter the eventual fallout from this drama — bombing, war, gas, terror — the president and the press, especially the US press, will declare that the emperor is fully clothed. All is well. All was well. This is the form truth has taken in the 21st century, Perception is reality. We perceive what the media choose to reveal.
But, should we demand more from our leaders than simply a story that sells?
(For added insight into this current thought experiment, see, “Making Sense of Syria“.)
How did we get to this point? Obama had dug himself into a deep hole but Russia’s Vladimir Putin, ironically, provided a ladder with which the president might climb out. Specifically, Vladimir voiced the myth of workable international control of Syria’s chemical arsenal. Voila! Barak Obama was whole again. All that Assad needs to do to put a ribbon on the pony is agree to comply…with what, exactly? How does one establish international control of canisters stored who knows where in Syria? Putin understands completely, as does Assad, that nothing will change with regard to the gas. But, most importantly to everyone involved in the charade, whatever ultimately happens to the Sarin will have been made moot by men in leadership posturing. The media narrative has already been written; “Obama forces Assad to cave.” That song will certainly save the president from further embarrassment but the deal itself, if it occurs, won’t save a living soul in Israel, Syria or America. The proposed solution is both naïve and unworkable.
There is no such thing as a gentleman’s agreement in chemical warfare.
Another irony of sorts is that one can find more up-to-date and compelling information than we are accustomed to watching on TV outside “the news.” It derives from a very old source. Consider…
“‘Look, Damascus will disappear! It will become a heap of ruins. The cities of Aroer will be deserted. Sheep will graze in the streets and lie down unafraid. There will be no one to chase them away. The fortified cities of Israel will also be destroyed, and the power of Damascus will end.” Isaiah 17:1-3 (NLT)
Will this grim prophecy apply soon or at a more distant time? No one knows. Sadly (or joyfully) that disaster seems more likely to happen than Syria willingly giving up its Sarin stockpile.
At the end of the day, we come no closer to the truth by relying on the news.
These are the high holy days, approaching Yom Kippur. We remember and give thanks that God lives. We rejoice that Israel lives again and we know that she shall endure forever, as God has promised, while withstanding the threats, lies, slander and irrational hatred of her enemies.
A very old and trusted source of information says that all this is so.