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Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber

Elliot BenjaminElliot Benjamin is a philosopher, mathematician, musician, counselor, writer, with Ph.Ds in mathematics and psychology and the author of over 230 published articles in the fields of humanistic and transpersonal psychology, pure mathematics, mathematics education, spirituality & the awareness of cult dangers, art & mental disturbance, and progressive politics. He has also written a number of self-published books, such as: The Creative Artist, Mental Disturbance, and Mental Health. See also:


Syria War
or Diplomacy

An Integral Solution?

Elliot Benjamin

I believe Obama's military threat was a crucial component in this very complicated integral story.

I have been steadfastly against bombing Syria in retaliation for the recent horrendous chemical attack that killed over 1400 people, including over 400 children. Last night I braced myself to watch President Obama's televised national sales pitch to justify his and Secretary of State John Kerry's persistent staunch efforts to sell this war to the American public. But the American public was not buying another war after the debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan, which was reflected in congress' unwillingness to support the president's war resolution. I was not looking forward to watching Obama's national appeal, knowing how much of a gifted orator Obama is, and vowing to myself that I would not succumb to the president's persuasive oratory powers (i.e. persuasive at least to me).

Obama Addresses the Nation on Syria.

But I was quite shocked by Obama's speech last night—and I believe so was virtually the whole country. However, I think it was a good shock. The country got briefed by the television correspondent a minute before Obama appeared at the podium, telling us about the recent surprise event of Russia persuading Syria to relinquish their chemical weapons to an international force. Actually I had read about this on the internet earlier that afternoon, but I did not expect this to have any impact on Obama's war pitch speech. However, I was glad to see that I was mistaken.

Of course we still don't know if war with Syria will be avoided, but there is now a sense of hope and optimism that seemed impossible to believe in just a day ago. When I try to understand how this sense of sudden optimism came about, I see an integral thread of diverse pieces all coming together in a rather chaotic but somehow or other constructive formulation.

First off, there is Obama and Kerry's strong militant stance with the decision to drop bombs and go to war with Syria. However, this decision resulted in the gradual burgeoning public opposition response, which was further complicated by Obama's decision to ask congress for their support of his military decision. I won't try to analyze the political motives that led Obama to make this decision to include congress in the decision-making progress, but I think this whole pot of soup has been stirred in wonderful integral fashion, chock-full of diverse and conflicting elements.

The two dominant conflicting threads have been briefly but I believe informatively described in the 9/11/13 edition of USA TODAY as follows:

Assad's use of chemical weapons is a moral outrage that poses a threat to the security of the United States, and the budding international effort to eliminate those weapons will fail unless it is backed by a credible military threat.

At the same time, the United States has neither the will nor a way to end Syria's horrific, multisided civil war by military means, so it shouldn't attempt to do so.

These conflicting threads were further echoed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Tea Party Senator Rand Paul, in the following brief quotes (once again see USA TODAY, 9/11/13):

Reid quote:

The only reason Russia is seeking an alternative for military action is that the president—will act if they do not.

Rand quote:

Some of us working very hard to delay the bombing have helped us get to the point where a diplomatic solution was possible.

So what do I now think about all this? Well I think both of the above dominant conflicting threads are accurate. I think both Reid and Rand are correct. As much as I hate the prospect of dropping bombs on Syria, I must admit that it makes sense to me that it was the imminent threat of Obama's decision to drop these bombs that led to Assad's sudden willingness to cooperate with Russia's plan of getting rid of Syria's chemical weapons, and for the first time actually admitting that Syria has chemical weapons (though still not admitting that he used them in the recent chemical attack).

This can be interpreted in terms of Spiral Dynamics language as “meeting red with red,” though I certainly am not advocating that we engage in “red” dropping bombs as our foreign policy. I'm just acknowledging that in this case I think it was a decisive factor that led to the totally unexpected diplomatic breakthrough, as described in two of the above quotes.

However, I also think that it was the impact of a clear significant majority of the country, which resulted in a clear significant majority of congress, voicing their opposition to dropping bombs and using military force on Syria that propelled Obama to actually take this Russian plan seriously. Certainly there were some major political reasons for Obama's sudden change of speech last night.

We thus see that the container of conflicting threads simmered and finally coalesced into what is now at least a possible resolution of a horrendous conflict. I took Obama up on his suggestion to view the videos of the horrific scenes of the chemical attack. I had seen snippets of some of the videos, but I hadn't wanted to view them in detail. Last night I watched a number of the videos completely and yes they were horrendous.

However, I still don't think that dropping bombs is the answer. The repercussions of this kind of military action against Syria could involve nightmares that have been continuously described all over the internet, and therefore I won't describe them further here. But at the same time, I believe Obama's military threat was a crucial component in this very complicated integral story. Perhaps the moral is that all the diverse integral components were necessary to make this soup digestible. And I hope and pray that this soup will stay digestible.

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