Before we get too far away from this moment, let's list several things that we don't want to forget and/or that remain unresolved.
(1) We still don't know whether Congress has any war powers
The biggest thing that promised to emerge from the U.S. threat against Syria was clarity on whether Congress would reclaim its authority over U.S. acts of war.
And the biggest part of that biggest thing was the clear-cut decision that Congress faced: obey constituents who uniformly told them to vote AGAINST a U.S. attack? Or disregard the will of the people they purport to represent?
(A secondary question was: what would Congress do if there WAS a Congressional vote against an attack, and President Obama disobeyed it? Would Congress impeach a president?)
This question remains unresolved. That is a big problem.
(See Obama's Syria "Vote" in Congress: Democracy? or Theater? )
(2) . . . but at least we now know how much we care whether Congress has any war powers
For better or worse, what the threat against Syria has shown is that, given the opportunity to have some democratic participation in the process -- to NOT just be powerless in the face of an imperial presidency -- we all hastened to join in the Congressional process.
This has big implications.
(See Election 2014: The Moment of Truth for the US Antiwar Movement? )
(3) "Principles" and "rules" are under discussion again
As a consequence of the sell job that the Obama administration had to do on Congress, they brought certain principles into high relief. Those included principles relating to conventions on chemical weapons, and on international enforcement of such conventions.
There was still a lot of emotion ("over 1,400 killed") and aggressive rhetoric ("Assad should step aside") and circular argument ("the American people haven't seen the classified reports I've seen") mixed in, but the process did provide opportunities to keep bringing the debate back to principles. (Somewhat.)
We're not done talking about these principles yet. And before we're done, we may find the U.S. itself under the microscope on account of the same (or similar) principles that it invoked in this case.
(See OK, You Have Our Attention. Let's Put a Stop to ALL These Criminal Weapons!)
(4) . . . but the principle of non-violence is still in critical condition
There is a risk that people consciously or unconsciously adopt "the 'threat of force' conclusion" -- namely, that conflict can be resolved (and can only be resolved) by threat of force -- and that the possibility that force might end up being used following the threat is an irrelevant factor in the matter. In other words, they believe that concession happens if (and only if) there is a threat of force; and stalemate happens if (and only if) there is an absence of threat of force.
It is important for the antiwar movement to look at this question . . .
(See "OR ELSE!" - What the U.S. threat of force against Syria teaches us)
(5) There are still the same three or four 800-lb gorillas in the room (We need a big room)
Though there was a brief window of time where it seemed that we were able to focus on the situation in Syria itself (see "principles" - (3) above), in reality there were several lurking issues that were always conditioning the discourse. And nothing has been done to mitigate this situation.
One is Israel.
Another is Iran.
Yet another is islamophobia.
And the 800-lb. gorilla to which we probably gave shortest shrift was Russia and its concerns. If we don't do anything else as a result of this little adventure, the U.S. had better develop a more informed way of relating to Russia, particular in the parts of the world that lie in Russia's backyard.
(6) Our empathy is still missing in action
What's missing in all this is the question: what can we do to alleviate the suffering of the people of Syria?
Not coincidentally, tomorrow is the anniversary of 9/11. And while empathy has never been our strong suit, it is certainly the case that it has been conspicuously AWOL since that event.
(See Syria - Strange and Dangerous? or Familiar and Beautiful? )
Maybe now that the crisis seems to be passing, we will take the opportunity to reflect on these points. In fact, now feels like a very good time to do so. Before the next crisis starts . . . .
"Humanitarian intervention" -- the great pretext for US intervention in Africa. Glenn Greenwald gave an outstanding talk in Chicago in May, 2012, in which he warned against humanitarian interventions: "The US -- no, everybody -- always says the reason for military intervention is 'humanitarian.' . . . "
(See Greenwald Was Right: "Humanitarian" War in Syria? It's Just More War)
(See Election 2014: The Moment of Truth for the US Antiwar Movement?)
WAR RESISTER - 2
Looks Strong -7
Question Mark - 4
Looks Weak - 3
WAR HAWK - 2