THE BLOG

World War Three Possibly Postponed for a Bit

11/09/2013 22:30 BST | Updated 10/11/2013 10:12 GMT

At the time of writing it looks like a casual remark by Secretary of State John Kerry has accidentally made the third world war a little less likely.

When he replied to a journalist at a press conference in London that Damascus could avoid being bombed if they surrendered their chemical weapons to international supervision, nobody took him seriously. Least of all Downing Street, which implied that such a whacky idea was entirely unworkable as it smacked of common sense and would make less spectacular TV viewing than nocturnal rocket attacks on multiple targets.

Then Russia and Syria backed the plan. Kerry was apparently delighted and stunned in equal measure. Sources hint that Kerry's suggestion was intended just as a sarcastic riposte to the journalist who asked the question, but in view of the reaction, Kerry is now planning to "just tear up the briefing papers" and henceforth make all serious foreign policy decisions on an entirely ad lib basis, and "just say whatever comes into my head when I'm on the podium... Like, go with the flow, dig?" In fairness, this approach does already more effective than anything generated in the last ten years or so by the careful and considered formal planning of cohorts of experts.

The doveish turn will disappoint the hawks in Washington, who consider it vital the United States get fully involved in the fighting of a three-way civil war where none of the current participants actually wants peace and nine or ten other interest groups could get easily sucked in, with such complicated twisted webs of alliances in place that some factions will probably end up actually fighting against themselves. But many in the global weapons industry believe this is just the kind of character-building challenge a powerful country needs from time to time, along with resolving the teasing moral conundrum of attacking the ones who use chemical weapons (allegedly - wouldn't want to be sued for damaging someone's reputation!), and thereby supporting their sworn enemies, the ones who fly planes into iconic American buildings when they're not shooting schoolgirls for wanting to be schoolgirls. Others are cynical about Assad's motives, claiming he is just playing for time to stave off a US airstrike and say he needs to recognise that if you live in a Middle Eastern country, being bombed by Americans is pretty much an inevitable rite of passage and he ought to just man up and get it over with.

Should Assad hand over his chemical weapons they will be monitored and held in safekeeping by the same crack team of experts hitherto responsible for the many complex hair products used to maintain Mr Kerry's iconic and awe-inspiring Macho Bouffant Haircut. In fact some commentators believe the Quiff of Power was in its own right a major factor in prompting the concessions from the Russians and the Syrians. "If they can do that to their hair," goes the logic, "think what they could do to us!" It would also explain why William Hague seemed a little cool and resentful.

The chemical weapons will of course be returned to President Assad just as soon as he has had a good think about what he's done and promises to use them more responsibly in future.

Assuming it was him who used them, of course. Wouldn't want to damage his reputation in the eyes of right-minded people.