Presumably the president believes that he is reassuring Americans when he qualifies his proposal for military strikes on Syria with the statement that “we’re not putting our troops in the middle of somebody else’s war.” But he is also arguing that the use of chemical weapons in Syria poses a direct threat to U.S. national security — which makes it our war. Which is it? What is it that Americans are supposed to rally around? A limited tailored strike to alter the enormously complex calculus in somebody else’s domestic contingency operation? Or would this be a blow for our side, in a war that is ultimately part of the long, proud American history of fighting to defend our freedom?
No doubt, given the option, Americans would prefer a world without war. But the world of the early 21st century does not provide that luxury. War arrived in the skies over New York and Pennsylvania and Washington 12 years ago this month — and it is not over. War came to the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi a year ago this month, killing a serving American ambassador for the first time in 33 years. As my colleague Michael Ledeen reminds us, Iran’s regime has been conducting a terror war against America since Tehran’s 1979 Islamic revolution. Syria’s regime is part of an axis profoundly hostile to the free world, in which Iran is making nuclear weapons, and North Korea has conducted three nuclear tests. A rising despotism in Russia ships arms to Syria and heaps insults on the American president. China, chief broker for the illicit traffic of both Iran and North Korea, is building up its military and jostling its neighbors.
What ails the American people right now is not war weariness, but the message that even where our president deems it vital to engage in war, there is no real victory to be had for America — just an ending, a winding down, or perhaps a leading from behind. What’s missing from the debate over Syria is a clear explanation and clarion call from the White House, explaining how U.S. strikes would fit into a larger strategy for victory, not over chemical weapons, but over those who would wield weapons, of any kind, against us. No, I am not calling for America to go to war against all enemies; there are many fronts on which the struggle between freedom and tyranny may be waged, But it would greatly aid the cause of a free and secure America if when we do go to war, we are rallied with the aim of victory, and fight to win.