Bogged down by politics

John Crosbie
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Second in a two-part series

When it comes to finding a political solution in addressing the Syrian civil war, U.S. President Barack Obama’s situation is made more difficult by the separation-of-powers form of his government, as provided by the constitution.

He has no control over the legislative bodies of the House of Representatives and the Senate, which are separately elected and quite independent of the executive power of the president. This makes it far more difficult for the kind of strong leadership in this democratic country like we used to have in Canada and other countries that follow our British parliamentary system.

Today, even the parliamentary system whereby one Parliament is elected by the electors and one government is formed from a majority, or from coalitions in the parliamentary system, the executive has the ability to control the legislative body and have full executive power.

This has developed its own problems, since, under modern systems of communications and changed social attitudes and institutions, the First Ministers in Canada — in both the federal government and the governments of the provinces, as is true in the United Kingdom and other countries with the Parliamentary form of government — have gained just about complete control of their own parliamentary governments, if they have a majority in the House of Commons.

In modern times, it is the First Ministers who dominate and now dictate the policy of whatever government they lead, certainly if they have a majority of the members of the House of Commons.

In his speech last week to the people of the United States, Obama revealed himself again to be a man of decent instincts, wanting to do whatever is reasonable and possible to resolve the Syrian crisis, particularly with respect to such barbaric tactics as the use of poisonous gases to try to subdue the rebellious masses.

Obama is clearly in the same position as politicians are in the United Kingdom or Canada or elsewhere in settling crises or intervening in struggles such as have occurred recently in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and similar countries.

In surveying this troubling, dangerous and inflammatory situation, one has to hope that the U.S. and Russia, involved in talks now to eliminate chemical weapons in Syria or elsewhere in our world, do come to an agreement on the size of the toxic stockpiles and solve all of the complicated issues to be agreed upon and carried out in order to eliminate the use of chemical weapons in Syria or elsewhere.

We have to hope that Russian President Vladimir Putin is serious about seeing that Syria agrees to a completely effective method of destroying all its chemical weapons and coming up with iron-clad safeguards since this is needed to ensure that gas attacks are never resumed.

We should all do what we can to support our own government in supporting the United States and the United Nations if they become more effective in ensuring that all the chemical weapons of the Syrian government are destroyed, and that the safeguards are foolproof.

It is obvious that Canada hasn’t the military means to be anything other than supportive of effective steps taken by larger and more powerful nations, such as the U.S.

Still, Canada can and must do whatever is within our reasonable means to help President Obama and his government in the actions they may have to contemplate and put into effect.

The peace of the world may depend on it.

John Crosbie welcomes your feedback by email at

Organizations: First Ministers, House of Representatives, House of Commons House of Commons.In United Nations U.S. Still

Geographic location: Canada, United States, United Kingdom Syria Afghanistan Iraq Iran Russia

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