When the United States and Britain turned away 70,000 starving Jewish refugees from the fascist Romanian regime of Ion Antonescu in February, 1943, it fell to U.S. Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles to explain why. There are reasons, Welles said. It’s a trick of some kind. Taking those Jews would just play into the Nazi propaganda machine. There are reasons.
Thirty years later, in 1973, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir came to Washington to plead on behalf of the Soviet Union’s persecuted Jews. In a secretly recorded conversation released only in 2010, President Richard Nixon and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger are heard to congratulate one another after having just shown Meir the door. They had their reasons.
“The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy,” Kissinger is heard to mumble, “and if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.” Nixon responds: “I know. We can’t blow up the world because of it.”
Push the clock ahead 40 years to last month, when events in Syria were unfolding in such a way as to call President Barack Obama’s bluff about the “red lines” he’d blustered about having drawn around Syrian tyrant Bashar Assad’s use of poison gas. To extricate Obama from his predicament, an anonymous White House official is summoned to perform a pitch-perfect ventriloquism of Kissinger’s casual aside to Nixon. “If he (Assad) drops sarin on his own people, what’s that got to do with us?”
Read the rest here. He has a related post on his blog, Syria: Paint it Black.
Terry Glavin is not alone in his analysis. From Der Spiegel, Gregor Peter Schmitz writes on an Unlikely Heir: Obama Returns to Kissinger's Realpolitik.
An early version of the Obama-as-Nixon theme came from Nick Cohen in the Observer back in 2010, Obama is the most reactionary president since Nixon.
Others are making the Obama-Nixon comparison not on foreign policy but on press freedom. In the opinion pages of the New York Times, James C Goodale writes that Only Nixon Harmed a Free Press More. I confess that’s a story I haven’t been following closely, but John Cassidy of The New Yorker provides a catch-up post with links, The Leaks Scandals: Questions for Obama.
Turning back to Syria, Jeff Weintraub has this month blogged a lot on the war, linking to writers he’s found informative. Here is a list of his posts:
• Escalating atrocities and counter-atrocities in an increasingly ugly Syrian civil war
• From the Spanish civil war in the 1930s to Syria's civil war today – Michael Petrou explains the fallacies of “non-intervention”
• Military stalemate and social meltdown in Syria
• Henri Barkey suggests that, on Syria, Turkey should put its money where its mouth is
Finally, Norman Geras has a good post up today which touches on how a war can be worth fighting even when it means allying with undemocratic states, even when one’s own side commits war crimes, and even when the end results are far from perfect, if the alternative to fighting is allowing a dreadful reign of barbarity to prevail. He’s not writing about Syria, but about the Second World War: Just a second more on that second war.