An idle thought during the run up to the “unbelievably small” US strike on Syria that will be “just muscular enough not to be mocked.”
Barack Obama rode into the presidency on one note: anti-war.
Specifically, he mocked President George W. Bush relentlessly on the Iraq war. Relentlessly. Brutally.
Iraq was the “wrong war,” we were “bogged down” in it. It was a “dumb war,” Bush was “rash” to engage in it, and it was based not on national security grounds, or on defending the so-called “international community” and its norms, but purely on politics, according to Candidate Obama.
Two dictators are known to have used chemical weapons since the world banned them: Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein. Now Bashar al-Assad is suspected of using them but it has not been proven. In the meantime, at least one terrorist group, Aum Shinrikyo in Japan, used them in its attack on the Tokyo subway system.
Many in the punditocracy say that Iraq hangs over the Syria debate, and that’s undoubtedly true. Hardly anyone is mentioning that Barack Obama’s case against the Iraq war greatly undermines his case for striking Syria.
For every evil Assad has committed, Hussein had probably committed ten. Hussein had tried to build nuclear weapons, he had invaded his neighbors, he had gassed his own people, he had set up a massive police state, he had fired on allied aircraft and flouted the UN for a decade. After 9-11 the UN sanctions regime against him had fallen apart (thanks in no small part to the French Obama is now depending on) so Bush made the case to act, the American people approved and Congress gave him the vote.
But Obama stridently opposed removing Saddam and harshly criticized Bush from the comfort of his armchair, from which Obama played a mean game of Madden.
There was an idealistic case to be made in the run-up to the Iraq war. The hope was that a free Iraq would become the model for a post-9-11 Middle East. A free Iraq would become a peaceful democracy, a friend of America, and a pluralistic haven where Muslim and Christian could live side-by-side. As it turns out, Muslim and Muslim can’t even live side-by-side there. Now we know better. That lesson and the lessons of Afghanistan and Egypt should inform our choices regarding other actions in the Middle East.
There is no such idealistic case to be made in Syria. No one believes that a democracy will take root there, at least in the short term. It’s a civil war, of the kind that Obama and his secretaries of state and defense supposedly oppose US intervention into. One side is a police state run by a Baathist thug. The other side is already trying to wipe out Syrian Christians as fast as it can.
The village of Maaloula has been taken over by Syrian rebels associated with al Qaeda, who have stormed the Christian center and offered local Christians a choice: conversion or death. A resident of the town said the rebels shouted “Allahu Akhbar” as they moved through the village, and proceeded to assault Christian homes and churches.
“They shot and killed people,” he said. “I heard gunshots and then I saw three bodies lying in the middle of a street in the old quarters of the village. Where is President Obama to see what has befallen us?” Another witness stated, “I saw the militants grabbing five villagers and threatening them and saying, ‘Either you convert to Islam, or you will be beheaded.’”
Obama’s own words come back to bite him. On August 27, 2008, Obama laid out where, when and how he would commit Americans to battle.
“As Commander-in-Chief, I will never hesitate to defend this nation, but I will only send our troops into harm’s way with a clear mission and a sacred commitment to give them the equipment they need in battle and the care and benefits they deserve when they come home,” he said.
What is the “clear mission” in Syria? Swapping out Assad’s Cheerios spoon for a fork? How can we be assured that the “unbelievably small” attack on Syria will do any good at all, or that it won’t morph into a larger escalating conflict? With Russia standing by on one side, and Iran on the other? With Hizballah waiting, salivating, to launch rockets on Israel?
What “sacred commitment” are we defending in Syria, that was not also at stake in Iraq? On January 31, 2008, Obama said that only an “imminent threat” to the United Stated justified military action. What is the “imminent threat” to the United States in Syria?
What was the “clear mission” in Libya? How did that turn out?
How did Obama handle how Benghazi turned out?
By lying, and lying, and lying some more.
The Obama government sent no help the Americans who died in Benghazi. It still will not come clean about what happened, or even where Barack Obama was that night. But he sends Susan Rice out to make the case for striking Syria, and expects American to trust him now. He lied, and she lied on his behalf, after Benghazi. Trust them? Are you crazy?
No help for Americans under attack in Libya. Help for who, exactly, in Syria? What’s the guiding principle here? Which side deserves to have America serve as its air force?
Barack Obama’s opposition to the war in Iraq was based not on principle, but on politics. It was his ticket to the presidency. There is every reason now to suspect that his hope to bomb Syria is based not on principle, but on politics. The question is, whose politics is he advancing?
All the lies, the gratuitous assaults on Bush and other Republicans that continue and will continue into the future, the double dealing and the IRS abuse and Fast and Furious and Obamacare and the stimulus and Obama’s own inexperience as a leader are coming back to haunt him. There is just no reason to believe or trust him at all. Not one.
More: See, here’s the thing. Americans don’t want another war in the Middle East. Hawks and doves all have our reasons. Doves don’t want the US to act militarily, ever. Hawks want assurances that if America engages, she fights to win. Obama’s communications on Syria have swayed neither side. Doves still don’t see a reason to fight, other than supporting their president. Hawks see a president promising strikes so weak that they will be ineffectual, and may do more harm than good. I don’t support the strike myself, but if I saw some reason to think that Obama would at least fight hard for American interests, maybe I could be persuaded.
Obama won’t make that case.