It was the most threatening of times. It’s not a threatening time at all.
How does a president justify a military action against a country led by a regime that used chemical weapons against their own people when as a candidate for president, he railed against a war his predecessor launched against a regime that had used chemical weapons against their own people?
By choosing his words carefully, leaving out politically inconvenient facts, making nebulous justifications that are hard to follow and drawing the wrong analogies from historic events President Barack Obama attempted to justify his war posture towards Syria.
President Barack Obama declared that the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons against civilians was “a danger to our security.”
Opening up with such an implausible claim does not make for a convincing sell, even to geographically challenged Americans.
Damascus is 5,889 miles east of Washington, DC and the Syria’s scud missiles have a maximum range of 434 miles. In other words, the top of the line low-grade Syrian rocket cannot reach Istanbul with a favorable wind.
The president attempted to make a convincing argument through a chain of logic that is as extended as a game of Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon.
By not taking action, (1) Assad would be encouraged to cross the “red line” again, continuing to use chemical weapons against the populace, which would (2) erode the ban on chemical weapons that would then (3) inspire other tyrants to obtain such weaponry, which in turn would inevitably (4) be reintroduced into the battlefield, thus (5) somehow making it easier for terrorist organizations to obtain, paving the way for (6) these weapons to be used in Israel, Jordan and Turkey due to a spillover of fighting from Syria.
Furthermore, not doing something to prevent the Assad regime’s further use of chemical weapons would (7) “embolden Iran” to construct a nuclear weapon.
While turning over his cache of chemical weapons to an outside authority would be optimal so as to prevent their use against anyone (rebels or loyalists), one does not need to be a foreign policy guru to realize that until they are transferred/destroyed it is better for Assad and his forces to sit on them than to see these toxic munitions hijacked by rebel units that include elements of al-Qaeda.
Diplomacy, threats, bribes, embargos and autographed Michael Jordan basketballs have not slowed down North Korea’s wmd development.
And our relationship with Iran is just as awful now as it was when candidate Obama embraced the idea of dealing with Teheran without preconditions as they continue work towards building a nuclear weapon.
The only thing that will stop Iran from attaining their nuclear prize at the end of the day is an internal coup or an external military attack.
Things got less clear when Obama shifted from exhibiting moral outrage over the Assad regime to describing the kind of military intervention he had in mind.
At first the president said that the United States would not deploy troops or engage in “a prolonged air campaign like Libya or Kosovo,” yet two breaths later Obama thumped that there would be no “pinprick strike” (water balloons filled with urine?), implying that whatever was launched at Syria would be severe and significant. Yet short.
So if the purpose of the “hit” is not regime change then what’s the point? To motivate Assad to kill the rebels “softly” with lead instead of “brutally” with chemical agents?
The only strategic end that would be accomplished by our intervention is that it would bolster the rebels’ morale, thus encouraging them to continue to fight.
It has not been fully established that Assad had ordered the use of chemical weapons. I wouldn’t be surprised if he did and I certainly believe the Syrian dictator capable of issuing such a murderous directive.
Let’s assume the president is correct in his assertion that Assad had “crossed the red line” and had his military commanders use chemical weapons. Why is he more of a villain than someone else in the region who had indisputably employed that kind of weaponry?
Fighting Iran and an internal rebellion, Saddam Hussein targeted the Kurdish town of Halabja in March 16, 1988 with a chemical attack that included mustard gas and sarin, killing thousands of civilians immediately and thousands of others later from the effects of the gassings.
Odd that the horrors of Hussein’s more contemporaneous utilization of chemical weapons never made it into Obama’s speech.
How can a president successfully rally the public to bless his crusade against one gasser after having opposed a war against another gasser just across the border?
No amount of eloquence can mask such an obvious incongruity.
As for the World War I reference, the president should have been less focused on the tactics than the continental conflagration’s origin and conclusion.
The “Great War” was sparked by a confrontation in the Balkans between the non-powers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Serbia yet the war was largely fought in western Europe by the military and industrial giants that were not involved initially (Imperial Germany v. France, UK and the US).
Some wars are waged in a relatively contained theatre (Panama, Grenada and the first Gulf War), others have a ripple effect that reverberates far beyond the opening battle lines.
With its close ties to China and Russia, which has a naval base there, 2013 Syria is more like 1914 Serbia than 2002 Iraq.
That’s the WWI lesson that is apparently lost on this administration and its reckless foreign policy.