Category Archives: US involvement in Syria

Who Should the President Listen To?

 
 

I find it hard to believe that we can find anyone who wants to be President of the United States even if you do get a jet and a cool code name like POTUS. The dialogue around the issue of what the President should do about Syria will give you whiplash if you really listen. First we have Assad crossing Obama’s red line by using chemical weapons against his own people (observers believe). Is he deliberately goading America? We have used chemical weapons against our foes in war, but, so far, not against our own people. Using chemical weapons, we have come to believe, is abhorrent and we find that they should be banned on moral grounds. However if other countries have such weapons we feel we must keep some also.

So as soon as Assad crossed that red line reporters began interviewing persons who harangued Obama to do something to punctuate our disapproval of Assad’s behavior. They are the hawks. They believe America must fight on the side of the downtrodden especially if they are striving to be free and that we must do this every time authoritarian monsters refuse their people justice. Some of the hawks doing the verbal prodding are the usual hawks like John McCain, but this time we also have Richard Engel, who we respect, urging America to get involved in Syria.

So President Obama announced that he will bomb certain key military targets in Syria and he will do it soon. He is looking for some support from other nations. It looks like there will be a few takers but not the UN, because Syria has big allies there. Perhaps Obama is remembering World War I where big nations allied to a small nation started a huge war over a small incident. Perhaps bombing a smallish country which has giant allies, who are not our friends, makes Obama a bit nervous, as it should.

No matter, as soon as the President announced what he planned to do the criticisms came in from the other side. They complained that it is not enough. They said it will either have no effect, or it will drag us into a new Middle Eastern war. They said that it is a declaration of war and requires the approval of Congress. Is it a trap to furnish the GOP with grounds for the much heralded impeachment of Obama if he acts without consulting Congress? Whatever, it sounds like the fallout will be far more negative than positive and yet if Obama doesn’t back up that red line statement the fallout may also be negative, because then Obama will appear weak, they say (feckless is the new preferred insult and applies equally, it seems, to both Obama and to members of Congress).

Our actions in war no longer have the unified support we experienced prior to Vietnam and which we have never really experienced since the end of World War II. A President must walk his own line and ignore the siren calls from both sides of the aisle, but it must feel like arrows to the soul, especially when the right thing to do is not absolutely certain or clearly apparent. At least if we decided to back the path our President chooses, those actions would have the weight of America behind them, but this way we just look like a bunch of cats in a canvas bag clawing each other. I don’t want America to lose the weight it carries in the world of nations. I hope Obama has a good idea of what decision to make, because I don’t have a clue.

This blog post is also available at www.brissioni.com
 

US Involvement in Syria

 
 
Drat! Those American ideals are pulling us back into conflict in the Middle East, this time in Syria. Obviously, when nearly 100,000 people are killed anywhere on the planet we are grieved and angered. We want the carnage to stop and we all think about whether America should help stop it. In this case we have people who are also fighting against an authoritarian leader who they want to be free of. It is written in our DNA that we will feel sympathy for the rebels. We are always the Rebel Alliance fighting against the Empire in our hearts. But – we have just slowed down the devastating parade of maimed soldiers arriving back in the US everyday from our recent endeavors in the Middle East. These soldiers have not even been processed by their government to receive their benefits. We have not yet finished mourning our dead soldiers who still arrive under their flag-draped caskets. We have hardly given a breather to our soldiers who have been at war seemingly forever. Our heads and our guts say that we should help this rebel army; our hearts can’t bear to do it.

There is a question of whether or not we will make America irrelevant in the Middle East unless we stay involved with freedom fighters and offer military support. Humanitarian support does not count apparently. We only get points if we put blood and guts in the game. But we haven’t earned any points by bleeding on the sands of the Middle East so far. The opinions of both Iraq and Afghanistan seem distinctly tinged with anti-Americanism. Perhaps this “revolution” in the Middle East is not as far along as we would like to think it. Deposing an authoritarian leader does not mean that Syria is ready to be a democracy or that the country ever will want to be democratic. There is also the point that we could make our democracy look a bit more appealing if we want to persuade people that our form of government works best. That might be a good place to start. Although our politicians often give us idealistic reasons for entering a war, their real reasons are often quite a bit more pragmatic. I’m not sure what those pragmatic concerns are but they are the ones that make us less than proud sometimes.

There are several complexities to consider when it comes to jumping into the conflict with Syria on the side of the rebels and we have heard those before. The rebels are not one unified group and, in our experience, which has recently become very personal, we have learned that once the rebels win the war a new civil war will often have to be fought among the various rebel groups to decide which group will get to formulate the new government, or perhaps a coalition will arise (not likely). And in Syria we also have elements of terrorists groups which we have no desire to support; not to mention that we would be pitting ourselves against Putin and Russia.

Call me crazy, but it seems as if there is a preponderance of reasons not to involve ourselves in the revolution in Syria but that word revolution has such a pull on the American psyche that we are almost powerless to resist the siren call of people who are oppressed and longing to be free. I am glad that I am not the President. I don’t want us to get more involved in Syria, but I understand why we probably will.