Middle East Attitudes on Obama & Syria Unimpressed: Matching a Spaghetti Western, ‘When You Have to Shoot, Shoot! Don’t Talk!”

In the great balancing act that resulted in President Obama’s surprising dual announcement — he has decided to attack Syria, but he won’t do it until Congress has a debate and votes on it — he must have considered how the Middle East would react.

Obama had Secretary of State John Kerry phone (among others) Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, right away — not to mention the president of the self-proclaimed “government in exile” that many Syrian rebels seem to support. Kerry reaffirmed the U.S.’s intention to hold the Assad regime “accountable” for using chemical weapons to kill over 1,400 civilians on August 21.

What did the Arab interlocutors most probably think?

Other Syrian rebel spokesmen are already quoted as expressing deep disappointment with President Obama.

The defected Syrian general, Salim Idris, had announced that his fighters had been repositioned — preparing to advance on Damascus — under the cover of U.S. missile strikes.

But, at least for now, there aren’t any U.S. strikes.

As for general reaction in Israel — where it seems that most people would like the United States to be a very strong, even frightening (to Israel’s enemies) global force — perhaps one should think back to a famous spaghetti Western from 1966.

In the movie, “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly” — as illustrated by the triptych of photos you see — the character played by Eli Wallach, Tuco, absurdly has his pistol in good working order under the bubbles of his bath.

However odd that might seem, his advice to the man who showed up to kill him — but instead was felled by Tuco’s shot — is a classic and could sum up a Middle Eastern view of a nation’s leader who threatens a military strike, announces he intends to strike, but still postpones it for a time unknown in the future.

“When you have to shoot, shoot!” says Tuco, sitting in his bubblebath. “Don’t talk!”

August 31, 2013

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