Once in a while people who write columns accumulate a few ideas that for one reason or another may or may not evolve into a full essay. This column is one of those accumulations.
Too much has already been written about Syria, but I can't resist adding a few sentences to the pile. Syria is one of those situations that definitely should produce the proverbial pony. It has not done this so far and probably will not. An impartial observer of the past few weeks might come to the conclusion that the events taken place are some kind of plot line for a satirical critique of how not to conduct foreign policy.
First, our leader drew a "Red Line" which, if crossed, would require American retaliation. When the Syrians ignored the line, we did nothing but bluster. Then the president claimed that HE did not draw any lines, it was the international community years ago.
What followed this was a series of heated discussions and proposals for various retaliatory strikes that would be limited to air power only, no "boots on the ground." The fixed in stone left and right wing factions scrambled themselves to support various options, or, no strike at all. Finally, our Secretary of State declared that what ever our action would be it would be "pitifully small."
Think about that -- a "pitifully small" retaliation from the world's greatest military power! He also made a toss off remark that perhaps the Syrians might put their chemical arsenal under international supervision. The Russians pounced on his remark and seized control of the discussion by proposing that Syria should give control of their chemical weapons to an international inspection team. At that point President Obama asked Congress not to pass any resolutions of any kind until we see how the Russian proposal plays out.
So here we sit. The Syrian dictator is free to continue his attacks on his own people; Russian and Iranian aid is continuing unabated to the Syrian government as well as to Hezbollah and Russia gets points for appearing to be the diplomats who avoided an American air strike. Our allies in the region must be wondering just how reliable is their old pal, Uncle Sam, whose best offer so far is to promise a "pitifully small" intervention. Since the Big O is a competent hoopster, I suggest we score this game according to the rules of basketball for forfeits and make it Putin two, Obama zero.
Switch channels completely. On a happier note, we recently spent a couple of weeks driving to Colorado and back. Whenever possible we avoided the interstate highways and travelled the "blue line" roads. You can see more of the country by doing this. One small but interesting observation seems to blur the line between the anti-fossil fuel zealots and the champions of the oil patch. All over the mid-west a common sight is one or more "donkey pumps" in the middle of corn or soy bean fields pumping oil from small wells. This has been going on since the 1930s, and these pumps enable a significant amount of oil to reach the market. The pumps normally have been powered by electricity brought to the scene by wires, etc. No more. Now the pumps are powered by small (2'x3') solar panels attached to each one. I don't know what this means, but it does seem ironic that the oil men are using solar power to supply fuel to the environmental fanatics to drive their cars to clean air rallies.
The most striking thing we noticed (other than the spectacular scenery of the Rocky Mountains) was the ever-present evidence of booming economic development around almost every small city. In New England, especially Vermont, economic development is scarce. A new "dollar" store is big news here. Any new business moving into an empty store front is reported happily as a possible sign of economic life. Beginning west of Albany prosperity rears its' head in the form of housing developments and huge shopping malls plus state and local highways that are pot-hole free. People are finding good jobs out there. These thousands of middle class priced houses are not being paid for with unemployment checks. Our politicians regularly lament that our young people leave the state when they graduate. Well, test scores notwithstanding, maybe they learned something after all. Maybe they figured out that it is hard to live on fall foliage and maple syrup, unless you inherit the sugarbush. Maybe they noticed that almost all of the famous native-born Vermonters we like to brag about, i.e. John Deere, Stephen Douglas, Calvin Coolidge, actually left Vermont as soon as they could and made their fortunes elsewhere. Or maybe they just glanced at the help wanted ads in the back of the "News Guide" and figured out that they have a better chance of a bigger paycheck somewhere beyond our borders.
Weiland Ross is a Banner columnist.