Yesterday President Obama addressed the nation on the current crisis in Syria, and the role that America has in its resolution. The President was able to paint a very clear picture of the horrors that are currently present in Syria. He was very successful at pegging Assad as a ruthless, irrational dictator who would do whatever it took to diminish the rebel advances. The President also helped the audience sympathize with the atrocities of chemical warfare. The descriptions of men, women, and children being subjected to sarin gas were heartbreaking. However, I believe the President could have been clearer on a few key issues:
1. Retaliation: The President claimed, “I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria.” He would go on to say that the Assad regime and his allies do not have the capabilities to be a serious threat to our military. Agreed. However, what if they attack one of our allies such as Israel? The President said, “Israel can defend itself with overwhelming force”, albeit with the “unshakeable support” of the United States. What type of support is the President eluding too? My guess would be some type of military support, which would probably lead to “boots on the ground.” To claim that you won’t put American troops on the ground when you are planning a military strike on an irrational dictator is a bold statement–a statement that could come back and haunt the President in the future.
2. Escalation: The President also said that Assad and his allies have no interest in escalating a war that could possibly be the end of his leadership. How could the President possibly know that? Did he promote Miss Cleo to his cabinet? Assad is unpredictable on a good day, and you can’t expect reason out of unreasonable people. Who knows how he will react once he has missiles flying over his head. In recent days Assad has also said that the U.S should “expect everything” if we decide to attack. Doesn’t sound like a guy who isn’t willing to throw some fuel to the fire.
3. Common Humanity: President Obama referred to a common humanity in which we all share, and that Assad violated this concept with the use of chemical weapons. Obviously, I agree full heartedly with the President that using chemical weapons is inhumane and against all human’s right to life. However, I would like to take this a step further. Isn’t any killing of another human against our “common humanity”? Why should it take the use of chemical weapons to have us cry for humanity? I believe this is just a very contradictory policy. Throughout the world everyday there are crimes against humanity. Assad has been killing his own people, whether rebels or peaceful protesters with conventional weapons for years. Is this also not a crime against humanity? Why wait for chemical weapons to enter the picture to make a change?
4. A Clear Plan: Lastly, the President really didn’t put forth a clear plan for military action against Syria. The President and his administration have been preaching “unbelievably small” military action. What does this mean, and if it’s so “unbelievably small” is it even worth it? The President has no clear goal of ousting Assad from power, or putting a stop to the civil war. Yes, we will blow up a few buildings (we’re good at that!), possibly kill some of Assad’s sympathizers, but we will also kill innocent citizens of Syria (isn’t this what we are trying to stop?). After we provide this incredibly small, insignificant, Tinker Bell sized military strike, what’s our next step? Do we plan another, dare I say, SMALLER attack on Assad when he continues to kill and torture his citizens? I just don’t see any upside in taking military action with no clear goal on the horizon. The best retort of the night went to Major General Robert Scales when he said, “military force is good for winning wars, it’s not good at nuance or restoring credibility…Military force is force.”
There are no easy answers to this crisis. However, the President and his administration need to have a clear-cut goal if they decide to strike Syria. If they don’t we may find ourselves in another foreign policy mess!