U.S. honor and reputation on the linePublished 11:00am Thursday, September 12, 2013
After all the endless agitations over the last decade of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, it’s been a little confusing to watch President Obama and the Democrats in favor of military action in another Middle Eastern nation.
The Democrats were well positioned as the party that was against wars, pretty much no matter what. Now none other than Secretary of State John Kerry is trumpeting fuzzy intelligence about Bashar al Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria’s ongoing civil war.
Then there’s the general tenor of the conservative grassroots, which can be simply boiled down to “No.”
It was clear in the message county residents gave U.S. Rep. Martha Roby last week in Eclectic. Not this war, not this way, not in support of this resistance. The congresswoman promised to seriously consider her vote, though she was hesitant to give a firm answer either way.
With a healthy share of certified bad guys fighting Assad alongside the Syrian rebels, even a move to stop the gassing of civilians could end up playing into the hands of avowed terrorists.
And I’m torn. In conflicts on that side of the war, there’s a lot of power in simply being thought of as strong. “The strong horse” is the phrasing I recall from the target of our most successful military action of the last few years.
Regardless of the letter after his name, when the President of the United States makes an ultimatum, the honor and reputation of the nation as a whole is on the line.
When President Obama drew the “red line” at the use of chemical weapons, if Assad crossed it, it creates a perception problem for the nation as a whole if the U.S. doesn’t carry through on the threat.
But Obama and Kerry’s much-advertised carry-through leaves a lot to be desired. The President has been making it clear to everyone who’ll listen that he only means to lob a few cruise missiles and smart bombs. He started saying that weeks ago, meaning any important installations have probably either been moved or, even worse, encircled with enough sympathetic civilians to make a successful strike wrought with humanitarian blowback.
Secretary of State Kerry told Congress promised an “unbelievably small” war. Forgive the innuendo, but that’s a bit too close to “just the tip” than I want to hear out of the world’s most powerful military.
If he’s telling the truth, the attack could be unbelievably unsuccessful in its stated goals. And if he’s not, hang on for another long conflict in favor of Syrian rebels who won’t really like us much once they’re done using our bullets and bombs.
This morning, the news is about Russia brokering some kind of bail-out that would put Assad’s chemical weapons in “international” hands. But if we’ve learned anything about Russian President Vladimir Putin, it’s that his self-interest tends to be the first, second and third priorities in his actions.
And the timing is ominous. As the nation marks 12 years since the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and one year since the deadly assault on the consulate in Bengazi, starting a new fight in a new country could invite more trouble than it’s worth.
So I guess I’m waiting to see what the president will have to say tonight, as this week’s PR campaign culminates with an address to the nation. It better be Obama’s best, too, because I’m quickly sliding off the bubble into do nothing territory.
David D. Goodwin writes a weekly political column for The Wetumpka Herald.