William Saunderson-Meyer
William Saunderson-Meyer

Sarah Palin has her once-in-a-million-year Hamlet moment

One always knew, as with the averred statistical likelihood of a million chimpanzees with a million keyboards in a million years eventually producing the equivalent of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, that it had to happen. Now after a lifetime of effort, former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin has at last said something intelligent.

Palin, who has a tenuous grasp of geopolitics, once famously indicated that she thought Africa was a single country. Nor could she name the members of the North American Free Trade Agreement. This hardly demands a mnemonic. The clue is in ‘North American’: it’s the United States, Mexico and Canada.

None of this bothered the notoriously insular American right. After all, her running mate, John McCain, had all the necessary cosmopolitan credentials from his youth as a naval aviator, having helped napalm bomb much of South-East Asia ‘back into the Stone Age’, as the air chief of staff of the time put it.

Following upon the drubbing the pair took from Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, Palin faded from public debate. This week, however, she suddenly popped up when the White House announced its intention to intervene in the Syrian conflict by arming the rebels, after the Syrian military had allegedly used chemical weapons, and in so doing crossed the US ‘red line’.

Palin’s reaction? Unlike McCain, who is all gung-ho to go, she rejects US intervention. Her solution? Since it’s a religious conflict, ‘I say, let Allah sort it out.’

It’s flip – with Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims pledging to obliterate one another, what irony a future where the only Muslims remaining live in the West – but it’s also flipping brilliant. Just this once, Obama should heed what is the Hamlet moment in Palin’s life, for there actually are good reasons to eschew intervention.

To start with, it has taken Obama more than four years to extract the US from the mires of Iraq and Afghanistan, into which his predecessor, President George W Bush, had dumped the country. It’s simply bizarre now to intercede in a Middle East civil war that has as explosive a mix of ancient ethnic, tribal and religious rivalries.

In a conflict where not even the combatants understand all the nuances, the US hasn’t begun to grapple with the ramifications of intervention. The Syrian historical tangle is complicated further by the military involvement, both directly and by proxy, of various Muslim rivals, including Iran, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, as well as – on opposite sides – terror organisations like Hezbollah and al-Qaeda. Meanwhile, at the same time that Britain and France encourage Obama, Russia is stepping up surface-to-air missile supplies to President Bashar al-Assad’s embattled regime.

There’s also the less than compelling evidence of Syria’s government crossing the ‘red line’. Obama’s ‘humanitarian’ intervention of war materiel is at this stage based on traces of exposure to sarin poison found in only two autopsies. That’s akin to the risible level of ‘proof’ of Weapons of Mass Destruction that Bush used to justify the invasion of Iraq.

The American left – if such a creature can be said to exist – has been muted in its response to Obama’s announcement, with newspapers like the liberal New York Times debating intervention largely on its supposed humanitarian merits. They should instead ponder the nasty unintended consequences of other failed ‘humanitarian’ interventions that the US has made in the post-World War Two era.

Former US defence secretary Robert Gates, who served under both George W and Obama, has highlighted the dangers of an inadvertently escalating intervention. The US ‘overestimates [its] ability to determine outcomes’ and military involvement in Syria’s crisis would be a ‘mistake’, Gates told CBS last month.

Obama should spare the world the US’s good intentions and hand this particular one over for Divine resolution, as per Palin’s advice.

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    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      Is the Syrian conflict about religion? I would have said that is the smokescreen.for a power struggle , especially with both Russia and the USA arming opposing sides. More like a fight between autocratic rule and democracy.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      What gave F W De Klerk the idea that when the Berlin Wall came down Communism was over? Just because the Germans chose democracy why would Russia and China? They are Easterners who have always had autocratic governments.

    • Clifford

      Why not just write an article saying you don’t usually like her politics but agree with her on this issue – why the need to further smear? Maybe you really didn’t know.




    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      I am bored to tears with one after another of our “intellectuals” saying “this is not what we fought the struggle FOR”.

      The truth is none of them were fighting FOR anything but AGAINST something and all had totally different visions of what would happen afterwards.

    • Duncan

      William, why the need to trash her? You live on another continent and a lot of what you ‘credit’ her with have turned out to be questionable at best. I hope you now feel very, very big. Like it or not, she was governor of a US state, won a vice presidential nomination and has what she says listened to by people like you. You write a blog. Get over it

    • WSM

      @ Clifford, @Duncan: Out of the mouth of Fox:


    • Miss O

      Well said Duncan.

    • Cross Country

      @ Duncan. Anyone in the public eye- and especially those in politics – puts themselves in the line of fire – and is judged by what they do and what they say (as well as what they don’t) . But don’t worry: They are well rewarded.
      (Think of our president. He decided not to sue Zaprio – because frankly, he doesn’t give a damn what anyone says or thinks of him – as long as he avoids going to court. Unable to run a country – except into the ground, he’s only in it to enrich himself and get away with as much as he can of our money and the country’s resources: And one day, when he is run out of office – or term – or whatever, he will still be left stinking rich after feathering his own nest for all these years.)

      WSM is a more than ‘someone who writes a blog’. He is a respected, experienced, erudite and witty political commenator and columnist – not prone to making mistakes with facts either. You may not agree with him; and you are entitled to challenge his opinions; but what on earth has his residing on a different continent got to do with the price of eggs?
      Besides President Obama actually being in S Africa shortly, why should WSM not comment on something of major concern to a world as volatile and threatening as the one in which we live?
      Sarah Palin is as well-known as George Bush, for her intellectual and poltical gaucherie and gaffes.
      She’s attractive. She makes plenty money. Don’t waste your sympathy.

    • Josh Painter

      Obama, who has a tenuous grasp of geopolitics, once famously indicated that he thought Europe was a single country. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sq2j74Zc0rA

    • The Praetor

      @ Duncan…

      It just goes to show that any idiot can become a politician and end up running a country. Its all about who you know, how much money you have, how many people you can convince.

      The Praetor

    • Clifford

      Yes, thank you @wsm – You are quite right – FOX got it wrong too! Like the time they reported her family went on a spending spree in Neiman Markus during the election – and then the Neiman Marcus store they reportedly went nuts in said the report was false.

      I am sure there are lots of things Sarah Palin has said that blog writers can pull apart – the Africa thing was a hoax. It undermines the authors credibility to write it as fact.

    • WSM

      @ Clifford: Um, well actually she did have a spending spree:
      And fortunately for her, the FEC let her get away with it:
      As for the Africa comment, the ‘hoax’ explanation: An AP story on this matter says, “The hoax was limited to the identity of the source in the story about Palin — not the Fox News story itself.”

    • joseph Coates

      Referring to josh Painter’s reply on Obama’s remark about Europe been a single
      country, reminded me of an inccident wayback in the late 70’s when some Amercians visited our counrty for the first time. We wanted to show them our wild life and arrange a Safari but they said : no, we have enough of a wild life in the States. Obvisously, confusing the lingo with night life of clubbing etc. But , to put it bluntly, the average, American, does think, geographically, beyond their borders. A great shame, as the majority of them are outgoing and quite generous. Ignorance isn’t bliss at times.