President Obama is at a tricky and dangerous point regarding intervention in Syria. (U.S. News)
During the Haiti coup of the early 1990s, the lines were unusually clear. On one side were the junta leaders and their supporters. There were the people who backed deposed president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. And then there were those who only cared for stability and ongoing profits.
It was also clear to many reporters and aid workers that the coup leaders would do almost anything to avoid pushing the United States to intervene. Meanwhile, the Aristide supporters were desperate to have the U.S. forces come in, take out the coup leaders and restore the elected president.
Thus arose a curious situation. Journalists had little legitimate fear of being kidnapped or targeted by the junta, understanding that if a high profile journalist or aid worker was killed it would push the reluctant Clinton administration to act. That was the last thing the junta leaders wanted, and they understood that dynamic quite well. However, there was a genuine concern that the other side would do just that – target a high-profile American – but make it look like it was the act of the junta. The end result would be what they wanted – a U.S. intervention – even if the price was killing a U.S. journalist.
That Alice in Wonderland equation, thankfully, never unfurled. Yet it pops back into mind when one looks at reports of chemical weapons use in Syria, and more broadly, what all the various players and observers want. As I challenge my students to ask, what are the motives? Then, what do you do to achieve your goal?
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