Reflections on President Obama’s Speech on Syria

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[Beneath The Spin]


After listening to the president’s speech on the Syrian affair, my position remains the same. He should throw this issue in the lap of congress, and thereafter, follow their prescription. The primary reason for that is, for the past four years it has been clearly demonstrated that he’s dealing with an irresponsible Republican congress, so regardless to what he does on his own initiative, or how it turns out, they’re going to say it was wrong. They’ll then completely ignore any precedents set by the Clinton or Bush administrations and conjure up articles of impeachment against Obama - as was so helpfully suggested by Cornel West - in order to sabotage and distract from any initiatives that he might have planned for his second term.

Another reason that the president should place this issue in the lap of congress is to force congress to act responsibly by giving them a vested interest in bringing the country together behind whatever action we take. The United States is between a rock and a hard place on Syria. It’s one of those issues where there is no right thing to do. If we don’t act, we’ll lose face with U.S. allies. That could cause them to lose faith in the United States’ commitment to protect their security, and thereby, cause them to have second thoughts about standing behind the United States when our own security is in jeopardy in the region.

On the other hand, if we do take action against Syria, we have to deal with the possibility of unintended consequences. One of the big mistakes the United States makes when dealing with people from other countries is that we assume that everyone thinks like we do. That’s a mistake. People from other countries have different religions, and therefore, different motivations. So while President Obama may plan on ordering a limited air strike as an admonishment to Syria to behave, Bashar al-Assad may feel under siege and go for broke.

Assad is a part of the Alawite religion, a very small sect of Islam. They constitute only 12% of Syria, and they’re beliefs are kept so close to the vest that they’re secret from even other branches of Islam. So we don’t know what this guy is capable of. He may launch biological weapons into Israel and start an all-out regional conflict.

President Obama has all of this information, so for some to suggest that he’s just anxious to go running off to war against some unknown quantity, is simplistic thinking at best. As he mentioned in his speech, he’s weighing options. The president said the following:

"If we fail to act, the Assad regime will see no reason to stop using chemical weapons. As the ban against these weapons erodes, other tyrants will have no reason to think twice about acquiring poison gas and using them. Over time, our troops would again face the prospect of chemical warfare on the battlefield, and it could be easier for terrorist organizations to obtain these weapons and to use them to attack civilians."

That’s a serious matter to be considered, and so is the following:

"If fighting spills beyond Syria’s borders, these weapons could threaten allies like Turkey, Jordan and Israel. And a failure to stand against the use of chemical weapons would weaken prohibitions against other weapons of mass destruction and embolden Assad’s ally, Iran, which must decide whether to ignore international law by building a nuclear weapon or to take a more peaceful path."

So it’s easy to run around and rant about this 'warmongering’ president, but the people who are out searching for cameras to run their mouths in front of are not concerned about any of these issues. All they’re concerned about is getting media exposure, and if you specifically ask them about these issues, they probably wouldn’t even know what you were talking about - if they do, they certainly haven’t come up with any suggestions on how we should handle the situation. That’s the difference between wagging your tongue and governing - when governing, you have to come up with solutions.

The majority of us voted for President Obama, not because we expected him to do everything that we wanted him to do, but because he’s a serious-minded adult whose judgment we trust; and in this big stakes chess match, he’s managed to stand firm, just as we voted for him to do - so firm, in fact, that Russia and China, Assad’s two major allies are beginning to blink. As a result, the president was able to report the following:

"However, over the last few days, we’ve seen some encouraging signs, in part because of the credible threat of U.S. military action, as well as constructive talks that I had with President Putin. The Russian government has indicated a willingness to join with the international community in pushing Assad to give up his chemical weapons. The Assad regime has now admitting that it has these weapons and even said they’d join the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits their use."

Now, that’s what it means to be a president.

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