Former world chess champion Garry Kasparov says he rejects all of the "trite chess metaphors" being used to describe the response to Syria by world leaders and maintains that Russian President Vladimir Putin won by forfeit.
"Putin did not have to outplay or outthink anyone. He and Bashar Assad won by forfeit when President Obama, Prime Minister Cameron, and the rest of the so-called leaders of the free world walked away from the table," Kasparov wrote in an opinion piece in Time
, adding, "They have all set up a new game at the negotiating table where Putin and Assad set the rules and will run the show under the protection of the U.N."
Kasparov, now chairman of the New York-based Human Rights Foundation, said that just a few weeks ago, both Assad and Putin were preparing for a military strike by the U.S. "They assumed that strike was coming because Obama had said, almost exactly one year earlier, that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would cross a 'red line' and that there would be 'enormous consequences' were it crossed," he stated.
"Assad skipped over that red line and yet his position is now stronger than he could have imagined. Putin grabbed his chance to look like a global power player while doing nothing more than attempting to preserve the status quo."
Kasparov continued, "Putin, Assad, and Ayatullah Khamenei were not the only ones keeping a close eye on Obama’s red line. Every autocrat, terrorist, and thug from Beijing to Yemen is stronger in the face of inaction and impotence by the free world. And to those of us living under repressive regimes the consequences are very real. Putin will feel even less constrained about cracking down on the Russian opposition now that he has built up capital as a global diplomat."
"I am far from being a naïve utopian, but as someone who grew up and lived over half of my 50 years in the Soviet Union, I can speak to the importance of knowing there were people outside, and entire nations of them, who cared about freedom — and my freedom — and were willing to invest in it, even fight for it," he wrote.
Kasparov became the youngest world chess champion in history when he won the title in 1985 when just 22. He was the world's number one ranked player until he retired from competitive chess in 2005.
In his Time article, he maintained that the U.S. and allies like the UK and France have the ability to prevent genocides, deter dictators, and give millions of people a better chance of obtaining freedoms. "Unfortunately, they have decided to instead withdraw from the world," he said.
Kasparov concluded, "History is longer than the news cycle or a term of office. The phrase never again is reserved for allowing horrors to go unchallenged, not for failed attempts to prevent those horrors. It is reasonable to fear making things worse. It is inexcusable to allow that fear to paralyze you and to stop from doing what you can."
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