As comic Oliver Hardy used to say, “Well, this is a fine mess we are in.” President Obama drew a red line and, from all indications, Syria crossed it when using chemical weapons against its own people. So, as I write this column, the question is, “What are we going to do about it, when, and will it be done constitutionally?” Right now we are telegraphing our moves and Syria is gaining time to change its weapons locations.
The British Parliament will not agree to help, the president is briefing Congress, warships are in place and the United States dithers. The situation demands action and if the U.S. fails to act, our credibility suffers. Will we be forced to go it alone? Germany and Japan are not supportive.
The president seems to be the reluctant warrior right now, but who can blame him? Americans are tired of war and have little enthusiasm for another one in the Middle East. Russia describes a Syrian strike as one that will have catastrophic consequences. The world community is not giving its approval, either, as the President works hard to make the case for military action. Will America’s long-term interests be well served by a strike against Syria?
Secretary of State John Kerry feels that if Syria’s use of toxic chemicals goes unchallenged, it could set a precedent for others to do the same. With ships in place, America has the power of deterrence and the President is ready to give the order once Congress gives approval. This is not 100 percent certain.
President Obama has no choice. He must show the world that when you speak loudly and carry a big stick, you only remain a superpower if willing to use that stick when necessary. Many nations are outraged at Syria’s use of chemical weapons long frowned upon by civilized peoples. They expect Syria to suffer consequences and failure to act is considered an abrogation of responsibility. We are looking at a humanitarian disaster demanding a response. America has drawn a red line. Syria crossed it and the case is being made for a response. Syria must be hit but on moral, legal and humanitarian grounds. When the President is satisfied the case is made and others approve, he will order a strike. Intelligence is being gathered right now and diplomatic and on site contacts are being made. The strike could come before this column goes to press.
According to President Obama, the strike against Syria will be to show people gassed that the world cares about their plight. We do not plan on toppling Assad and will hit military targets. We would like a political rather than a military solution, but know that innocent sleeping people cannot be gassed with impunity.
Meanwhile, the president keeps telegraphing his moves, allowing Syria time to move their military assets to safety. How can we create change if Assad doesn’t go?
We have already lost the surprise element while trying to prove we are more than a paper tiger. Our security and economic interests depend upon our having a strong resolve to lead. The president’s threats cannot be hollow ones and his vacillation must end.
Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.