The violent clashes that erupted last month between Sunni Islamists and Shi'ite rebels in Yemen's Amran province were partly a reaction to U.S. President Obama's declaration of his intention to launch a military strike against Syria.
Throughout that long September weekend CNN had the only camera watching the Air Force live as it attempted to cope with and cover up a potential nuclear disaster. I believe to this day, if it hadn't been for Mik and our flatbed truck, the Air Force might've gotten away with it.
I've been wandering from Afghanistan to Mali, trying to visit as many living and dead Sufi masters -- and shrines -- as I possibly can. But perhaps no place excited me more than the splendid shrine of John the Baptist in the Umayyad Mosque of Syria.
I believe in a series of unifying axioms that make travel a transformative experience. And on behalf of "Travel," let me answer the question, "Why would anyone go to Syria?" In doing so, I hope to add a human element to our ongoing discussion of Syria's current reality.
What exactly can Syria do in retaliation? Actually, it's not what Assad will do. His military can't even beat the ragtag rebels arrayed against him. Rather, it's what his proxies may do... and that is where we should be focused on.
While today we're all thinking about chemical weapons in Syria, I can't stop thinking about the Sufis there--the living and dead mystic masters and dervishes whom I encountered in Damascus just two months before the civil war began.
With or without a credible UK or US foreign policy, military strikes serve no purpose besides compounding an already desperate humanitarian problem, destabilizing a delicate and fragile political landscape, and weakening a security structure that confronts the objectives of Al Qaeda head-on.
By a limited definition of Article II, the president can act on the spot in an emergency to protect American interests. That authority is still not, in my opinion, a blanket permission to act unilaterally in Syria.
Perhaps it is solidarity with the victims of Damascus that has caused Hollande and France to voice their determination, and now to assume a leading role. As if to declare, 'We know, we have been there, it can not be permitted to happen again."