At dinner last night in a wonderful restaurant in Attleboro, Massachusetts, we two couples agreed that we were as discouraged about the political climate as we have been in a long time. We all had been paying attention to the confusion, chaos, and negativity which has surrounded the President, Congress, The United Nations, Syria, Russia and the Republican Party over the past few weeks. What had been enthusiasm and even humor about the give-and-take in our government had turned sour and we were in the pits over it all. The future seemed cloudy and there was an absence of good news to hang a hope upon. It didn’t ruin our dinner, but it limited the topics of discussion we could find to accompany a wonderful meal.
It’s amazing what a good night’s sleep can accomplish. Upon arising this morning and turning on my laptop I was greeted with a headline that said, US & Russia reach deal on Syria. An accompanying video from NBC News was Secretary of State Kerry reporting that he and his counterpart from Russia, Sergei Lavrov, had led their teams of negotiators into a place where a firm, clear, and amazingly revolutionary agreement had been achieved regarding the chemical weapons created and held by the nation of Syria. They had been meeting in Geneva over the past week to try to reach some degree of concord by which they could pressure Syria to withdraw from their use of these weapons of mass destruction. They not only achieved that, but they went beyond to lay a foundation for the elements necessary to bring the horrible war in Syria to a conclusion without future use of military troops and weapons.
What happened that changed the picture overnight? Diplomacy.
Whereas Russia and the United States have spent the past few weeks and months exchanging barbs and building barriers to future engagement, there was suddenly a breakthrough. These two men, both accomplished in the skill of diplomacy, had been able to set aside the jabs and accusations (like the ones that had appeared in the New York Times under an Op-Ed article by Mr. Putin) and to move forward in a way that leads to agreement rather than conflict.
The words of Secretary Kerry were enthusiastic, positive and encouraging. But they were also wise and cautious. There is much to be done before these talks emerge as plans. There are bound to be some set-backs. But the tone of the dialogue has changed from sarcasm and criticism to appreciation, respect, and concern for the welfare of the world.
We have needed an image of diplomacy. What has occurred in the halls of Congress has been anything but. The words and gestures of the political world have been disgraceful and embarrassing. There have been few contemporary models from which the members could draw inspiration. Maybe this effort on the part of Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov can serve as that model. They have worked hard, kept their eyes focused on the goals, and they have embraced respect as the tone of their engagement. That is what diplomacy is about. Secretary Kerry said that they did not agree on all things, and that there remain real differences of opinions on a variety of issues. That’s okay. The purpose is to achieve agreement on the issues upon which they can find unity.
In doing so, these two men and their teams may, well, have laid the foundation for a period of healthy dialogue and genuine progress. It would be a welcome gift.
Photo Credit: Harold Cunningham, Getty News