Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to get up in the morning. As careful as presidents are, and have to be with making speeches and off-hand remarks, they are still human. Obama proved that with his red line comment a few months ago, and I’m sure he has wished many times that he could take it back. His best explanation, or what some would call spin, couldn’t do enough damage control to keep the ship of state upright on the topic of Syria.
I recall well during the Vietnam era one of the mantras from the right, “My country, right or wrong.” I didn’t know at the time that the words belonged to the great naval hero, Stephen Decatur, that they were out of context, and that the rest of it included the hope that our country would always be right in dealing with foreign nations. With reference to Syria, to get involved at this stage would be wrong for a lot of reasons, and Obama’s speech to the nation did nothing to dispel that belief.
Obama made a strong emotional argument that mentioned children victimized by the illegal use of gas. No argument from me on that point, but he did not include any mention of children and other innocents killed and maimed by artillery or outright executions. The issue I had hoped he would address concerned the “imminent” or at least “immediate” threat to the United States or any of our interests. He rightfully pointed out that Assad would not use gas against Israel or the United States any more than Saddam Hussein used it against Israel or the United States. While I don’t think a limited strike of the type Obama proposed would have any effect, even less so do I believe it considering all of the telegraphing Obama has done concerning the type of mission it would be, promises of no boots on the ground, no planes crossing Syria airspace, and what the targets would be. I’ve never seen anything crazier. If we were going to do a very limited and targeted strike, it should have been done with no warning, and it should have been fast and furious to accomplish the mission. In this instance I am reminded of General Douglas MacArthur’s words, that every battle that has ever been lost can be summed up in two words, “Too Late.”
To suggest that even a limited mission as Obama proposes isn’t an act of war is the height of disingenuousness. Imagine some country striking one of our bases in the U.S. and trying that explanation. The notion that we can support a “friendly” insurgent group is another lesson that we should have learned from. We tried it in Afghanistan in the 1980s when we supported the Mujahedeen against the Soviets only to have our own weapons later turned on us. And even if we helped an insurgency aligned with U.S. interests, who’s to say that they won’t be overthrown by another group? The communists and nationalists in China come to mind, as does our support for a lot of dictators in countries that were later overthrown. How many were alive in 1964 when Lyndon Johnson said that he wouldn’t send American boys to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves. We know how that turned out.
It’s time that our vast sums of money propping up Arab nations with military hardware and training be put to good use. Syria is in their backyard. Let the Arab League undertake the mission of destroying Assad’s gas capabilities, and overthrow him if they think they will be better off with a new government. Why should we take the lead? The unintended and unforeseeable consequences of the U.S. leading this charge make no sense without there being a real threat to our country.