Obama’s Syria Debacle
I am not a war monger; I know the meaning of war, the death toll, the suffering, and the destruction of property along with the impact it has on innocent men, women, and children. That said, regardless of how appalling the use of force is to achieve any objective, there is a time when force must be used to prevent greater calamities.
For more than 30 months, the Obama administration watched with equanimity the systematic slaughter of the Syrian people; a people who rose up only because they wanted to be free, enjoy basic human rights, and have hope for a better future.
America is committed to safeguarding these rights; as President Obama put it, “that’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional.”
Yes, this is who we are. But nearly 120,000 Syrians have been massacred, among them more than 20,000 children under the age of 15. If these children were alive and joined hands, they would form a line 10 miles long. They died helplessly and needlessly.
Throughout this merciless and dehumanizing war, the President has delved into back channel and open diplomatic efforts to stem the violence and oust President Assad from power. Yet thirty months later, President Assad is still presiding over his killing machine and no concrete measures have been taken by the United States to precipitate his departure.
Other than humanitarian aid, the White House largely refused to provide the rebels with any weapons under the pretext that those weapons may fall into the wrong hands. Had such weapons been provided at an earlier stage to vetted rebel groups, including the Free Syrian Army, they could have changed the dynamic of the war in favor of the rebels.
The White House’s inaction and continued indecisiveness has further emboldened Assad to test American resolve by using chemical weapons at least eight times, and blatantly crossing President Obama’s so-called “red line” with impunity.
Reliable sources suggest that the President’s national security team knew with certainty about the earlier use of chemical weapons but chose to continue to “investigate” – to play for time, which led to more, larger scale chemical attacks.
The gruesome deaths of 1,423 people (including more than 400 children) resulting from the August 21 attack has finally forced the president to face the bitter reality.
I agree that the use of chemical weapons is heinous, incomparable in its horror to any other weapons, and must never be tolerated. But then, isn’t it fair to argue that the U.S. could have prevented Assad not only from gassing his citizens but also from indiscriminately killing tens of thousands with conventional weapons?
Weary of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is understandable that the majority of Americans and their representatives do not want to entangle the country in another war, particularly in the Middle East.
The administration failed to explain to the American public the glaring difference between taking limited military strikes against a tyrant to deter him from continuing to slaughter his people, and waging two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while occupying both countries with thousands of troops at a terrible cost in blood and treasure.
Many congressmen who refused to support the bill authorizing the President to use force have taken this position, not as much because they do not wish to punish Assad, but to express a vote of no confidence in the President.
Regardless of Obama’s intentions, he has appeared unsteady and unsure, raising serious questions in the minds of America’s friends and allies about his leadership and the U.S.’ credibility.
The Obama administration has failed time and again to draw attention to Russian President Putin’s hypocrisy as the latter continued to directly interfere in Syria’s civil war by openly supplying Assad with military equipment to crush the rebels – and on three occasions prevented the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) from taking any punitive actions against Assad.
At the same time, Putin vehemently opposed any outside interference while colluding with Iran and Hezbollah to aid Assad with munitions, arms, and fighters on the ground.
President Obama and his entourage insist that America’s credibility to use force prompted the Russians to persuade Assad give up his chemical weapons in order to avert an American attack.
In truth, many keen observers who follow the grim political reality suggest that the President was only too eager to grab Putin’s proposal, knowing full well that he does not have Congressional support to strike Syria. Moreover, with the exception of France and Saudi Arabia, no other country has openly declared its willingness to join the U.S. in military strikes against Assad.
If there is even a small chance for the Russian proposal to work, along with the passage of such a UNSC resolution, it must include the following provisions: the departure of Assad along with his top military and internal security echelon, an immediate ceasefire to which all rebels and Assad’s military must fully adhere, and a recall of all military personnel and equipment to their barracks under UN supervision, a deal which Russia is not likely to accept.
Third, given the ongoing civil war and the inaccessibility of many locations, it might be impossible to complete such a task; a task that requires hundreds of inspectors who are not readily available.
When asked if there was anything that Assad’s government could do to stop an American attack, Secretary Kerry replied, “Sure. He could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week. Turn it over, all of it, without delay, and allow a full and total accounting for that. But he isn’t about to do it, and it can’t be done, obviously.”
While seeking a political solution that must exclude Assad, President Obama must also be prepared to strike. The U.S. Congress has the responsibility to support the President in this case by rising up against tyranny and giving the Syrian people the chance to live free with dignity.
As witnessed in Libya, Egypt, and now in Syria, the Arab Spring will be a long and cruel winter. Every Arab state will be affected by it. It has permanently changed the political landscape in the Middle East, where the U.S. has huge economic, military, and national security interests.
This calls on the U.S. to develop a new and comprehensive strategy that corresponds to the ever-changing conditions on the ground. Indeed, how the Syrian civil war ends and what role the U.S. plays in ending it will have far-reaching security ramifications on the U.S. and its allies.
America remains the only global power with the responsibility to preserve global stability and foster political and social values for the betterment of people everywhere.
The President of the United States is the face of America. He is expected to lead with courage and vision and stand by the values that made America what it is, while using his best judgment to act in line with the moral responsibility to which America is held.