Roosevelt’s apothegm was a summary of his foreign policy. Expanded, it meant “the exercise of intelligent forethought and of decisive action sufficiently far in advance of any likely crisis.”
In the days leading up to our president announcing he wanted congressional action on action in Syria, he changed his opinion five times. That indicates little forethought and inconclusive action.
Little wonder that former President Bill Clinton called him the “amateur” prior to the end of his first term. Obama could have learned from Clinton that lobbing missiles into a country does little to change things. Clinton did it in Iraq in 1993, Afghanistan and Sudan in 1998, and Serbia and Kosovo in 1999. His action in those instances did little to alter horrible conditions.
I have traveled in the Middle East 45 times and met such heads of state of King Fahd of Saudi Arabia and Prime Ministers Shimon Peres and Menachem Begin of Israel. I have enjoyed dealing with merchants and street venders in five Middle Eastern countries.
My limited knowledge of the mentality of the area has led me to certain conclusions. On all levels there is a common characteristic. You had better be prepared to back up what you say. An elemental example of this is bartering with merchants. They will banter with you from today to tomorrow, but if you name a price and they agree to it they expect you to pay that price. If you don’t they consider you not truthful and unreliable. Failure to follow through even arouses their anger.
There is a new term that may well be the lasting legacy of Obama’s years as President. It is “Red Line.”
The fact there have been no contingency plans causes concern as to whether there are now any such plans. The ancient Code of Hammurabi, the sixth Babylonian King, was enacted around 1772 BC. Simply stated it is “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” If you hit me, I am going to hit you.
Applied, we strike Syria, Syria strikes Israel and Israel strikes Syria. That last strike would be against their nuclear plants, and then what?
In the unlikelihood our missiles were to result in King al-Assad being forced out, there are 50,000 rebel soldiers ready to take control of the country and impose Sharia Law.
Israel has had informal relations with Syria. I have been on the Golan Heights and viewed a vast expanse of Syria. There are no fortifications or major military presence along the border. I have watched as trucks carrying produced have moved freely across the border in both directions.
A new radical Islamic government would not continue this amicable accord. The threat to Israel would be increased.
There are two possible restraints against expansion of conflict.
Assad might not want to fight two wars, one with the insurgents and the other against Israel. Iran might not want to risk destruction of their nuclear program by Israel.
When the family of a little boy confronted a challenge the parents said, “Let’s pray,” to which the child responded, “I didn’t know things were that bad”‘
They are. Let’s pray.
The Rev. Dr. Nelson Price is pastor emeritus of Roswell Street Baptist Church.