Thursday, December 5, 2013

Nelson Mandela: the passing of a world leader

This evening, 12/05/13, a grieving world received news that Nelson Mandela, the man who personified the 20th century African struggle against Apartheid and white minority rule in South Africa, joined his ancestors at age 95. Mandela’s death came after a protracted illness and hospitalization. 
After 27 years of political incarceration—a period that witnessed ceaseless internal and external African-led resistance to the indignity of Blacks of South Africa being treated as semi-slaves in their own native land under an oppressive system of governance, known as Apartheid—Mandela was released in 1990 by former  South African President F.W. de Klerk. Mandela’s release from prison took place after decades of what eventually evolved into a world-wide movement against apartheid. The straw that broke the camel’s back was a regime of UN-led economic sanctions against the apartheid regime, which got tightened in the 1980s. 

For decades, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), which later renamed itself as the African Union in 2001, spearheaded an international campaign against apartheid rule in South Africa-- through ceaseless resolutions of its own, boycotts, activism at the United Nations and lobbying of other global organizations and nations. Because South Africa has a significant share of the world’s much-valued strategic natural minerals, such as gold, diamond and platinum, for a long period of time, officialdom in the Western World aligned itself with the white minority regime in South Africa.  The following excerpt sheds light on the importance of strategic minerals.

Four important minerals that the United States imports vast quantities from African nations include chromium, cobalt, manganese, and platinum. Each of these will be discussed separately.

Chromium is one of the major elemental resources that the United States depends upon. Chromium is used to make stainless steel, tool steel, and used in high temperature applications. Since 1961, the U.S has been 100% reliable on other nations for chromium. The Republic of South Africa and Zimbabwe contain 98% of the world's reserves of this mineral (Mangone, 1984, p. 32).

Cobalt has not been mined in the U.S. since 1971, because the amount that the United States can produce cannot compete with the price of other countries. Cobalt is primarily used in gas turbines and jet engines. Zaire, Zambia, Morocco and Botswana contain approximately 52% of the free world's reserves of the mineral (Mangone, 1984, p. 38).

There are no significant ore deposits of manganese in the U.S. available for economic production. Manganese is a highly valuable strategic mineral to the U.S. since it is used to make steel. All of the manganese used by the United States is imported from other countries, and thirty-nine percent from South Africa. Over 75% of the free world reserves come from South Africa and 37% of this is consumed by the world market (Hagerman, 1984).

Platinum is only obtained in the U.S. in trace amounts and therefore, the nation depends 100% on other countries. South Africa contains 73% of the world reserves of platinum and virtually all of the United States need is met by this country (Hagerman, 1984) (

Until the late 1980s or thereabout or probably beyond, Western governments, including the United States, regarded anti-apartheid organizations and their leaders, such as Nelson Mandela himself and his African National Congress (ANC), as terrorist organizations—in concurrence with the perspective of the oppressive white minority regime.  On the other hand, for much of the period of the struggle, the Eastern Bloc, instead of the Western Bloc, was a steadfast friend-in-need to the South African liberation effort--much in tandem with its erstwhile posture on the larger antecedent African continental liberation movement. Real support from Western governments for the anti-apartheid struggle--beyond grassroots demonstrations of solidarity--began to filter in during the dying years of the movement. For instance, it was in 1986 that the Congress of the United States took a historic stand of over-riding a veto by President Ronald Reagan to enact a Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986. The Act, which was the brain-child of Congressman Ronald Dellums and the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), came about partly in response to grassroots pressures from a nation-wide divestment movement that fermented in the late 1970s and through the 1980s across the campuses of America. Randall Robinson's TransAfrica was a notable force in the Free South African Movement of this period. 

History recalls that part of the strategem of the white minority regimes in South Africa, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Mozambique and Angola , was to cast the African freedom fighters as communists or communist sympathizers. This strategem was designed to attract and sustain the sympathy of the West--and it did, a West (led by the United States) which, for much of the period under review, was engulfed in an ideological and nuclear arms race with the socialist Eastern Bloc (led by the defunct Soviet Union) otherwise known as the Cold War.

Apartheid was South Africa’s equivalent of America’s Jim Crow system of racial segregation—in perhaps a more insidious form. Under apartheid, Blacks/Africans, who make up the majority (about 80% of the population), were denied the right to vote, denied the right to freedom of movement (and were supposed to live in Bantu homelands, otherwise known as the Bantustans,  which amounted to just 18% of the land area of the country. Under apartheid, a white person was legally entitled to a higher level of compensation than a black person for the same type of job.  Africans were subjected to pass laws which made it mandatory for them to carry passports wherever they were within South Africa. Like the apostles of Jim Crow in the United States, the architects of apartheid believed that Africans were of an inferior race and so did not deserve to be treated as equals with whites. There were laws that forbade interracial marriage and provided for separate educational, medical and social facilities. 

From a historical perspective, there were three major events or developments that occurred during the internal struggle against apartheid that became flashpoints or turning points in the struggle. One was the Sharpeville Massacre of 69 Africans on March 1, 1960 when police opened fire on anti-apartheid protesters in that township of what is now known as Gauteng.  A second development that also boosted the anti-apartheid fervor in South Africa was the emergence—in the 1960s—of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM). This movement effectively tried to intellectually revitalize the anti-apartheid struggle in the wake of mass imprisonments of organizational resistance leaders, such as Nelson Mandela. In September 1977, the banned Leader of the Black Consciousness Movement, Steve Biko, was murdered in a South African prison. The third turning-point was the police massacre of school children in the township of Soweto in 1976—school children who, on June 16, 1976, embarked upon a peaceful protest against the imposition of Afrikaans (a local South African language of the Afrikaners (the dominant white group) of South Africa) as a medium of instruction in their schools. The school children saw Afrikaans as the language of the oppressor. Afrikaans is a language spoken only within South Africa—a Germanic language that was adapted by Dutch settlers in South Africa in the 1800s. Variants of it are spoken in Namibia and Botswana. The protesting South African school kids would rather be taught in English and their own native languages. Video images of police firing live bullets on and gunning down school children appeared on television screens across the globe and became an immediate catalyst for such external protest movements as divestment and anti-apartheid campus movements in places like the United States. As an undergraduate and graduate student at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana in the middle to late 1980s and a two-term president of the African Student Association (ASA), I participated in and led annual June 16 “Soweto Day” rallies and marches on campus and beyond—rallies during which we recurrently carried placards calling for an end to apartheid in South Africa and for the immediate release of Nelson Mandela from prison. Those rallies and marches attracted and featured diverse student groups—African students, African American students, white students and other international students.

As I stated earlier, in capitulation to a strangulating global regime of economic sanctions and escalating internal black resistance, including the ancillary roles of big brother Nigeria and the frontline states of Tanzania, Zambia, Kenya, Botswana, and to some extent, Mozambique, South Africa’s President De Klerk released Mandela from prison in 1990. For the first time, a democratic election, including African participation, was subsequently held in 1994, which produced Nelson Mandela as the first black president of South Africa, nay the first president of a democratic South Africa. Much unlike certain African nationalist leaders who later emerged as leaders of their countries upon gaining independence from colonial rule, Mandela served or chose to serve for only one term of 5 years, 1994 to 1999. 
As the father of a new rainbow nation, he pursued a policy of national reconciliation most aptly symbolized by the truth and reconciliation hearings that were held in the late 1990s. Instead of seeking retribution against white officials who had masterminded killings and brutalization of African anti-apartheid leaders and foot soldiers, Mandela chose a path of national healing—a path, a system of restorative justice, that earned him the Noble Peace Prize in 1993 and world-wide reverence. In retirement, Nelson Mandela became a global statesman and symbolic father of the South African nation.

Until his death today, 12/05/13, Nelson Mandela, like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, was one of a few remaining prominent African leaders from the era of the African nationalist struggles against colonial rule—both in the settler and non-settler territories. But due to his legacy of a leadership model that championed non-racialism, forgiveness, peace and national reconciliation, he is being mourned, not just as an African leader, but as a world leader worthy of emulation. May his gentle and peaceful soul rest in peace!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

I am disgusted!

This afternoon, I read, with a profound sense of disappointment, a news story which claimed that Nigeria’s Minister of Sports and Chairman of the National Sports Commission (NSC), Bolaji Abdullahi, “queried national soccer coach, Stephen Keshi for going to the media” after working for seven months without being paid his monthly salary. This salary arrears situation also applies to the other members of the coaching crew of the Super Eagles, the national football team.

The news report ( quoted the minister as also saying that "it is unfortunate that Keshi has to bring out the issue of his salary and make it a media issue, because it is something that can be addressed internally." The minister was reported as blaming what he described as a “systemic failure” for the lack of payment of the salaries of the national senior team’s coaches. Why did the minister allow this so-called internal systemic failure to persist for seven months and beyond? A contract is what it is: a binding document. Only a mal-functioning organization would not feel a sense of shame at failing to honor the obligations of a salary contract.

My first instinct was to wish that the minister was mis-quoted by the news report. On second thought, however, I decided to register my disgust at the statements attributed to the honorable minister. I found it shocking that the minister would take a path of apparently making light of the fact that Nigeria’s Football Federation (NFF) failed to pay the salaries of the coaching crew of the national team despite the team’s track record of monumental successes during the affected period. The successes include Nigeria’s winning of the much-coveted Africa Cup of Nations in February, 2013, Nigeria’s winning of the Nelson Mandela Challenge Cup in August, 2013, and the most recent triumph of the national team over its Ethiopian counterpart in order to qualify for the 2014 World Cup Soccer finals in Brazil.

As the officer who has overall charge of sports at the federal level, the minister, in the statements credited to him, did not come across as an appreciative and sensitive manager of human resources. I expected the minister to publicly rebuke NFF for dereliction of duty in its failure to pay the salaries of the coaches. As a matter of fact, the NFF is reportedly notorious for not being punctual with payment of the salaries of certain coaches that have worked for that association ( As should be expected of a sensitive and responsible manager, the minister should have condemned this pattern of conduct in no uncertain terms. What sort of axiological code guides this minister's sense of fairness?

While the fans of the Super Eagles rejoiced over its spate of victories, little did they know that the coaching team that made all this possible was not being paid its richly-earned salaries! The nation’s leadership has also been busily touting the successes of this golden set of Super Eagles as indicative of the effectiveness of its transformational agenda—without apparently feeling any sense of guilt that the crew that hatched these eggs has been working without pay for seven months. How does President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan feel about these contradictions? As the chief executive of the Nigerian nation, the buck stops at his desk!

A good manager worries about the morale of his/her employees. Does this minister of sports want us to take him seriously when he was reported as saying that an employee that goes public with a problem of non-payment of his salaries for seven months acted impatiently? Has the minister not been receiving his own salaries from the federal government of Nigeria during the same period? How would he have reacted if President Jonathan, his boss, stood-by and looked the other way, if he, the minister, found himself in a position in which he was not paid his earned salaries for seven months? What is the honorable minister’s prescription for how long an employee should go without pay before complaining publicly about it? In fact, when news broke last week or so that Coach Keshi has not been paid his contractual salaries for seven months, it came across as a bitter bill, as a shameful disclosure, as an incredible act of ingratitude by the NFF to a coaching crew that has proven itself to be one of the most successful in Nigeria’s national footballing history.

One can’t help seeing a glaring irony in the fact that while on the one hand, the NFF failed to live up to its salary obligations to a set of hardworking national football coaches for alleged insolvency, the supervising minister apparently could still count on an available resource with which to “oblige Keshi additional technical support in form of foreign technical assistant, if he so requests” ( He reportedly went on to add as follows: "We played two matches in the last couple of weeks one in Calabar and the one in London against the Italian national team. If you look at the two games, you can see that the profiles are different. Of course, the competitions are different, but also the games are different in terms of approaches. We have received reports from outsiders but we are going to sit down with the coaches to review all these.”

The preceding statements—particularly their implicit questioning of Keshi’s capacity for effective coaching for world-stage competitions despite his status as demonstrably the most effective coach of a national soccer team in Africa and his repertoire of world cup qualifying victories—that a second news report  attributed to the minister, point to what I had suspected, all along, to be the subtext for the seeming disrespect and ingratitude that the NFF and other officialdom associated with it have been openly showing to Keshi and his crew, as demonstrated clearly by the association’s failure to pay the crew’s earned salaries for months on end and not feel any qualms about it. Instead of giving the victorious coach of the senior team and his crew all the encouragement that they deserve by at least taking speedy steps to see that they are paid their salary arrears and by also putting in place measures to prevent a reoccurrence, the minister is apparently busy scheming for some ill-defined objective—as the preceding media reports would suggest.

Readers of my blog would recall a pertinent commentary that I posted on 2/12/2013 ( on a reported threat by Coach Keshi to resign after winning the Africa Cup of Nations in February, this year. Below is an excerpt from that commentary, which I deem applicable to pronouncements now coming out of the mouth of the honorable national minister.

As a football management entity, the NFF appears to be in a suffocating, unrelenting and unholy grip of a bureaucratic cabal which has a notoriety for meting out indignity to Nigerian coaches, and it's high time that someone put those bureaucrats in their proper place! It's apropos to recall, for instance, the humiliation that ex-national coach, Christian Chukwu suffered at the hands of this bureaucratic cabal that seems to be so well-entrenched that it survives successive federal administrations. I also recall how another ex-national coach, Shaibu Amodu was displaced by this same crop of alleged foreign-estacode sniffing NFF bureaucrats after he succeeded in qualifying the Nigerian national team for the summer 2010 World Cup soccer finals. Applying a questionable logic and a dose of disparaging media propaganda against the coach about his alleged deficiencies in technical expertise, the NFF got rid of the goose that laid the golden egg--that is, the man who performed the feat of qualifying his national squad for participation in the elite world cup finals at a time that many other African nations failed to make it into the list of six African countries that were featured in that global final contest in South Africa.

The NFF and its supporting officialdom should be careful not to act or speak in ways or not to continue to act or speak in ways--no matter how barely disguised--that may foment or nourish a crystallizing public impression that a successful national football coaching team constitutes a nuisance, nay an annoying barrier, one that must be frustrated, to a potential foreign exchange extravaganza (yet another means of milking a dehydrated Nigeria in the name of "technical assistance"). Each time the Super Eagles qualify for yet another World Cup Soccer Finals competition, NFF's officialdom should see it, and rightly so, as a feat, as a justifiable accomplishment for an increase in the incentivization package for the coaching crew and qualifying team--and never as an opportunity for a self-serving foreign exchange adventure.

An example of a constructive leadership response to the national team's recent qualification for the 2014 World Cup Finals in Brazil came a few days ago from the Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, who, in a statement reported to have been issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Malam Imam Imam, "charged soccer administrators in the country to ensure that the team prepares for the global event early so as to make the necessary impact" ( Yah, I, myself, had entertained the same thought, namely that the Super Eagles should be given an opportunity for a protracted training regimen in preparation for Brazil, 2014. Such a pre-Brazil protracted training regimen could enhance the team's sense of cohesion.

In any case, given emerging news reports about Nigeria’s minister of sports, it seems that those who should be listening, did not pay attention to my advice in that blog of 2/12/13. In conclusion, I beg to say that if not that sometimes, Nigeria’s officialdom appears to allow itself to be perceived as an anything goes establishment, the statements that the news media recently attributed to the sports minister should earn him a rebuke—at the very least—from all parties that are concerned about the future of Nigeria’s Super Eagles.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Congratulations, Gallant Boys!

Yah, those gallant boys made us all proud. I hasten to add that they brought joy to our hearts! Nigeria's under-17 team beat Mexico, 3-0, today, 11/08/13, to win the 2013 under-17 World Cup Soccer competition ( I watched all of the team’s under-17 World Cup matches, including its resounding opening,  group-stage 6 - 1 victory against the same Mexican team.  In fact, it was after that rare global-stage soccer victory against a reigning world champion that I predicted that 2013 was Nigeria’s year for winning the global soccer trophy—yet again. In defeating Mexico today to clinch the world cup for the 4th time, Nigeria made world history by becoming the first team in recorded history to win that global trophy for the 4th time. Previously, Nigeria won this under-17 world cup in 1985, 1993, and 2007. At the conclusion of this year's competition, Nigeria also made world soccer history by scoring 26 goals in the tournament—two goals more than Germany which, up until now, held a world record of scoring 24 goals in the competition.

I must confess that this tournament was the only moment in my life time when I watched soccer with a sense of relaxation, as a loved team played. Why? The boys' track record of solid victories made me watch each of the matches that they played, during the tournament, with a sense of confidence. As each game began, I was not worried about any possibility of those gallant boys losing; instead, reclined in my couch, as I watched each game, I confidently looked forward to not whether they would lose, but to how many goals they would score. Not even Enugu Rangers International (the darling of my youth) ever game me this sense of stability, pride and confidence--as I watched a Nigerian soccer team play--either at the national or club level.

Though the senior team, the Super Eagles, has its own splendid track record of accomplishments, including its winning of the much-coveted Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year, it still can borrow a leaf from this crop of under-17 Nigerian soccer players--in terms of how to play football with a consistent sense of victory, cohesion, rhythm and camaraderie. Though I understand the fickle nature of soccer, I would like to see the Super Eagles inspire a degree of confidence in its fans similar to what the under-17 team pulled off during the latter’s crusade through the just-concluded 2013 FIFA under-17 world cup soccer championship games. Indeed, earlier in the week, I was not surprised to read that the coach of the Brazilian 2013 under-17 team openly commended these Nigerian lads and said that their trilling field performances amounted to "what football is all about." 

Bravo to brilliant, effective-but-humble and gentle-spoken coach of these adorable Nigerian under-17 players, Manu Garba for selecting and grooming a highly skillful, dedicated, cohesive and happy soccer team. He has emerged as a national hero! No doubt, Garba has also earned a historic distinction as one of the most effective soccer coaches in Nigerian,  African, and world history.

With all due humility, I call upon Nigeria’s National Football Federation (NFF) to adopt Manu Garba and his under-17 team as the leadership and group of players that should represent Nigeria in the next under-20 FIFA world cup soccer competition.  All things being equal, I trust that this cohesive, highly skillful, victorious and entertaining team and its leadership are likely to do us proud again in the not-too-distant future. Once again, hearty congratulations to coach Manu Garba and his gallant under-17 world soccer champions!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A smart move by the Commander-in-Chief

In my view, President Barack Obama acted wisely this last week of August, 2013 by taking a cautious step of seeking Congressional approval for his announced intent to take a measured type of military action in Syria as a muscular rebuke of the Syrian government for its alleged use of chemical weapons. It would appear that the earlier action of the British parliament, on Thursday, 08/29/13, of voting against Prime Minister David Cameron’s similar desire to act militarily in Syria probably influenced Obama’s follow-up decision, announced on Saturday, 08/31/13, to go beyond mere consultations with key Congressional leaders on his Syrian military plan. It’s also possible that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin’s reported urging of the US,  earlier on 08/31/13, to hold off military action on Syria (  might also have nudged Obama towards his latest move, namely his decision to go to the people’s representatives in the US Congress to seek for a mandate. (Take note that the Russian government supports the Assad-led government side of the ongoing civil war in Syria, while Obama’s administration backs the rebels). Obama’s stance might also have been influenced by internal factors, such as public calls made by a cross-section of US political leaders and pundits, including a mix of Republican and Democratic members of Congress, on the president to request for a Congressional authorization before acting militarily in Syria.  Obama acknowledged this factor: "over the last several days, we have heard from members of Congress who want their voices to be heard. I absolutely agree. We should have this debate, because the issues are too big for business as usual" (

All of this contrasts sharply with President Obama’s approach to Libya in 2011. Acting in concert with NATO and following an affirmative resolution of the Arab League, President Obama gave the go-ahead for US warplanes and missiles’ pulverization of Muammar Gaddafi’s Libyan war machine merely on the basis of pre-consultations with Congressional leaders but without a prior formal Congressional approval ( In the Libyan case, what started out as a no-fly zone operation, on the part of a US, NATO and Arab League coalition of the willing--ostensibly meant to protect an endangered population of Benghazi’s district of Libya--eventually metamorphorized into a regime change mission. Gaddafi was not only dislodged from office after ruling Libya for 42 years, he also lost his life; and, political power shifted into the hands of the then rebel forces, who until the US intervention, were the underdogs in the military confrontation between internal Libyan insurrectionists and Gaddafi’s government forces.
One notable trait that was evident on the part of Obama, during the Libyan case, was cautious decision-making. It will be recalled that before Obama eventually joined the “no fly-zone bandwagon,” it all seemed much more like a Western European-led pre-occupation championed doggedly by the former French President, Nicolas Sarkozy. In eventually authorizing US military action in Libya, Obama clearly came across as a reluctant combatant. To a certain extent, this model of cautious decision-making is playing itself out now in the Syrian case and admirably so. Although by August, 2011, Obama had publicly advocated that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go (he said as much about Gaddafi before the US’s decisive air-based military intervention in Libya), he has not rushed into a military action. He has been acting in a step by step fashion.  In June, 2013—several months after stating publicly that President Assad must go and several months after being badgered by Senator John McCain for not siding with the rebel forces--the Obama administration announced a decision to begin a provision of material aid (described as small arms and ammunition) to the rebel side of the Syrian civil war ( Back in August, 2012, Obama announced his now famous red-line on Syria. Specifically, he was reported as saying that “any attempt by Syria to move or use its chemical weapons would change his administration’s “calculus” in the region” (

The closing weeks of August, 2013 saw a disclosure that there had been a chemical attack in the ongoing civil war in Syria—the second such reported use of such weapons in this war but this time on a scale that was considerably larger, producing a casualty rate of over 1400 deaths. In the wake of this second chemical attack, the United States government took the position that the attack was planned and carried out by the government side of the civil war. Secretary of State John Kerry has led a spirited defense of the US position on the reported late August, 2013 chemical attack in Syria. On Friday, 08/30/13, Secretary Kerry strongly laid out the US government position before a nation that appears to be not too eager to plunge into another war after budget-busting US invasions and prolonged occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. While Obama has since pulled US forces out of Iraq, the president is now in the middle of dismantling the 12-year-old US military mission in Afghanistan—the longest in US history, with the last batch of US troops scheduled to leave by December, 2014 ( In speaking to the nation on Friday, 08/30/13, Kerry was mindful of all this history but urged the nation not to be deterred by it:
As previous storms in history have gathered, when unspeakable crimes were within our power to stop them, we have been warned against the temptations of looking the other way. History is full of leaders who have warned against inaction, indifference and especially against silence when it mattered most.
Our choices then, in history, had great consequences. And our choice today has great consequences. It matters that nearly 100 years ago in direct response to the utter horror and inhumanity of World War I that the civilized world agreed that chemical weapons should never be used again. That was the world’s resolve then. And that began nearly a century of effort to create a clear red line for the international community.
And it matters deeply to the credibility and the future interests of the United States of America and our allies. It matters because a lot of other countries, whose policy has challenged these international norms, are watching. They are watching. They want to see whether the United States and our friends mean what we say.
It is directly related to our credibility and whether countries still believe the United States when it says something. They are watching to see if Syria can get away with it, because then maybe they too can put the world at greater risk (

Kerry also addressed a rather philosophical but pragmatic question that hovers over a possible US military action in response to the reported chemical weapons-usage in Syria. Here is how he put it:
Now, we know that after a decade of conflict, the American people are tired of war. Believe me, I am, too.
But fatigue does not absolve us of our responsibility. Just longing for peace does not necessarily bring it about. And history would judge us all extraordinarily harshly if we turned a blind eye to a dictator’s wanton use of weapons of mass destruction against all warnings, against all common understanding of decency, these things we do know.
Obama said as much during his announcement, on Saturday, August 31, 2013, in front of the White House, that he had decided to get the Congress formally involved in the process of formulating policy on a possible US military course of action in Syria. He did not mince words or weaver in his conviction that the situation called for a US military degradation of Syrian government’s war-making capability. He reasoned, most wisely, that although he believed that, as president, he has “the authority to carry out this action without specific congressional authorization, our country will be stronger if we take this course."
Beyond a need to rally the nation behind the president’s quest, there are other compelling reasons for proceeding cautiously. First, in the case of Libya, both NATO and the Arab League were on board. In contrast, in this unfolding case of Syria, NATO seems nowhere to be found, and the usual US ally on such foreign military ventures, namely Britain, has backed out. Second, in its latest reaction to the Syrian crisis, the Arab League stated that the Syrian government was responsible for the chemical weapons attack and called on "the United Nations and the international community … to assume their responsibilities in line with the UN Charter and international law by taking the necessary deterrent measures" ( This can be decoded to mean that the League does not favor a unilateral military action by the United States. Third, in the case of Libya, both Russia and China were supportive, but so far this time, they seem to be in opposition. Fourth, the United Nations’ inspection tour of Syria—in the wake of the chemical attack—is yet to file its report. Fifth, a war is not cost-free. In light of the budget sequestration faced by federal agencies, including the Pentagon, it makes sense to have the law-makers debate both the military and budgetary implications of what might become a new US war abroad even though President Obama has characterized his planned Syrian action as being limited in scope and not open-ended.
The unfortunate blood-letting in Syria once more reminds all of humanity of the imperative of doing all that two disputing sides can muster in order to resolve matters peacefully through compromise. One side can’t have it all. Civil wars, by their nature, tend to be internecine, though the weak side tends to suffer more in terms of human and property casualties, as well as the opportunity costs of war. Once shooting starts and blood begins to spill, it becomes much more difficult to get the influencial elite of the disputing parties to lay down arms and make difficult give-and-take decisions that may re-create viable space for mutual peaceful co-existence in the midst of cultural, racial or religious diversity or all of the above.  It’s thought-provoking to suggest that in peace times, the elite of a society enjoys most of the privileges. Yet, when members of this same elite quarrel over their inability to agree on how to continue to procure the lion share of “the national cake,” the people that eventually bear the brunt of their elite’s inability to govern fairly are the ordinary citizens who, in the first place, received only the least portion of the pie while the going was good.  All too often, a root cause of what ultimately leads to a combustion—that is, a breakdown in national tranquility and stability—is a lingering and an unresolved sense, on the part of one segment or the other of a national population, that national affairs are not being conducted fairly. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, goes a common adage. And so it happens that due to what seems like innate human selfishness, there tends to be an invariably counter-productive and centrifugal tendency,  on the part of a dominant group that finds itself controlling the levers of power within a polity, to become self-absorbed, self-centered, arrogant and insensitive to the rights of other constituent communities of the nation to a proportionate seat at the table of power.
While I was composing this essay and constructing a constituent theme to the effect that world leaders should explore and pursue a means of helping the warring sides in Syria to lay down their arms—at least in the form of a ceasefire—and then have their representatives get onto  a round-table to negotiate a new formula for mutual co-existence in their nation, I was cheered to learn that Pope Francis, Jordan’s King King Abdullah II and his wife, Queen Rania have just called for dialogue as a way out of the internecine civil war (
Since both sides of the Syrian war do have self-admitted powerful external backing (that is, in the main, the United States government backs the rebels, while the Russian government supports the government-side of the conflict), why is it that the emphasis of the external backers is not on getting the warring sides to a round-table--without preconditions--for a negotiated end to the senseless killing of their own people?