Secretary of State, John Kerry's case for a US-led strike as a punitive measure against Syria’s gassing of its own people is one of the most compelling speeches I've heard. It is very difficult for me to maintain my own personal preference to remain cautious; to want to wait for some sort of consensus, of real proof and a sense support from the rest of the world, our allies--someone who can help justify another military operation that will surely have global consequences for us, and especially for our soldiers.
One sentence, one off-the-cuff phrase made by President Obama in a press conference with respect to some imaginary “red line" does not signal a change in Foreign Policy.
It should not.
It is absurd for the US to talk about stopping Assad without talking about "after Assad." What happens to Syria if and when Assad is removed, if there is a regime change? Are we worried about our relevance if we don’t act? Are we attempting to save face in the wake of a (now seemingly) thoughtless comment? Will Iran feel emboldened if we don’t stop Assad?
The answer, of course, is “No.” Iran is moving forward with their nuclear program anyway. And for the hawks among us, chomping at the bit to bomb the shit out of Iran instead, it will only increase nuclear paranoia here in the US.
We can only further alienate any possible allies in the region by acting now—after upwards of 14 times the Assad regime has used chemical weapons, this latest time just has the raw, painful footage to go with it. And truth be told, we seem to be largely reacting to this chemical attack as if it were fundamentally worse than a traditional bombing. Shocking footage, in and of itself, is not a defining reason to go to war.
Was it in WWII?
And besides, the US itself has already used chemical weapons. In Vietnam. Agent Orange. Napalm. If it is somehow morally better that the US did not use chemical weapons on its own citizens (which, is also true)--instead on the Vietnamese--that's a terribly hypocritical, and richly ironic, argument.
So then what is the strategic objective of a military strike? A regime change? Apparently not—according to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, there is "no military solution available." Some sort of humanitarian message? That would seem to be an illogical, if not impossible, motive. The chemical attack in Syria is obscene and criminal, but the United Nations in its 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (which Syria did not sign) says simply "don't do it" but outlines exactly zero consequences for those that actually do.
What is the recourse? Are we just making things up as we go along? Starting wars to punish those with whom we disagree?
If we think that Assad's regime won't simply move civilians (schools, hospitals, etc.) to the potential military target sites, we are, at best, stupid. The US did sign that 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, agreeing that as policymakers we would "weigh just cause against the question of whether there is a reasonable prospect of success at reducing civilian bloodshed...and to select the best type of intervention to meet the goals, which generally means a much longer commitment of blood and treasure than punitive air strikes."
And if, just if, the US manages to fuck this punitive air strike up, we will manage to give even more power to extremists who will surely cross that red line again, and again, and again...
Once again the American people, the government, the nation stands at the beginning of a potential military action. Action that will, once again, be in a country whose culture the average American does not readily understand.
Syria is a complicated country with tensions as old as the peoples who have inhabited the area for thousands of years. The country itself is a collection of artificial borders created by European colonial powers in an attempt to contain and control. Civil war now tears the lives of the disparate citizens to shreds, displacing them and often much worse.
As human beings, though, we inevitably find that we have more things in common than we suspect. I like to think that somewhere in isolated places or in the midst of the cities, normal life reasserts itself, continues to go on. People need to find routine, people need to come together, in short, they need to eat...and drink!
Syrians often begin their evenings, when allowed, by lingering over a series of small dishes collectively called mezza. The food could be any number of things from hummus, cheeses, olives, sardines, grilled aubergines, artichokes or other regional foods. While eating and discussing, the drink they enjoy is the national liquor called Arak.
Arak means "sweat" or "juice" in arabic and is a clear, unsweetened, anise-flavored distilled drink. It is not drunk straight, it is mixed with equal proportion of water, and ice. In that order: water is added before ice because if ice is added directly, the drink look will appear messed. The dilution of this drink in water turns it into an opaque milky white color. This kind of liquor is not unique to Syria. It is enjoyed throughout the Levant, the part of the Middle East that’s dominated by Syria, Lebanon and Israel, and it is related to the Greek Liqueur Ouzo, the Turkish liqueur Raki and the French, Pastis, among others.
It is this spirit that has inspired this edition's offering. Though not taken in the traditional manner, you'll surely find it a pleasing companion to your culinary beginning.
The Typhoon (a variation of the classic drink, the French 75) :
1.5 oz of gin
.5 oz of Arak
1 oz of lemon juice
1/4-1/2 oz simple syrup
Mix the gin, Arak, simple, and lemon in a shaker until chilled and fill the glass with champagne. Garnish with a twist of lemon.
*note - Having no Arak on hand, I have used Ricard Pastis de Marseille