Sunday, September 15, 2013

President Obama and What to Do About Syria

Damned if he does and damned if he doesn't. 

On August 21, a gas attack in Syria leaves 1400 people dead.The presumption is that the Syrian government, under President Al-Assad, used Sarin gas against its own people and a soon to be released UN report is expected to confirm the use of chemical weapons. President Obama announces that the U.S. is prepared to take military action to send a clear message to Syria that it will not be allowed to violate the international chemical weapons ban without there being consequences. Liberals and conservatives find common let's-trash-the-President ground, with one group declaring Obama a warmonger and the other decrying his alleged inexperience and large ego. However, a handful of Republicans support getting tough with Syria. Then the administration suggests the possibility of reconsidering taking military action if Syria will hand over its stockpile of chemical weapons. Putin volunteers to help broker this deal with his Syrian friends. 

Some liberals declare Obama to be "lucky" to be "rescued" by Putin, but still insist that he has betrayed us and declare that the U.S. lacks moral superiority to chastise Syria because of our own past and present transgressions. Most of Congress says they will not authorize Obama to take military action, totally ignoring that precedent supports the President making a decision to use military force against Syria as long as it is not a pursuit of war but a police action against a perceived threat to the safety of the U.S. However, the small GOP crew that wants to get tough with Syria doesn't like the idea of a diplomatic solution and call Obama weak for even considering it. 

To drop bombs or not to drop bombs, that is the question. Whether it's nobler to pursue a diplomatic solution or to blow Syria up? As of this Saturday, September 14, an agreement has been reached under which Syria will be expected to put its stockpile of chemical weapons under international control before they ultimately are destroyed. Everyone is happy! Well not quite, it seems that the folks who wanted the President to take military action against Syria are not pleased with the agreement because it does not include a provision that the U.S. gets to use military force against Syria if Syria reneges on the agreement. 

The President has indicated the U.S. will support the UN Security Council resolution, (one of the next steps in the process) which doesn't threaten Assad with the use of force if his government fails to comply. Senators McCain and Graham have labeled acquiescence to the U.N. resolution as an act of "provocative weakness." They insist that the President looks weak in the eyes of the world for not insisting that it's our party and we'll bomb Syria if we want to. A segment of the liberal contingency continues to bemoan Obama's betrayal and insist that he's morphed into a warmonger. There are also those who insist that the U.S. just needs to stay out of all affairs in the Middle East or anywhere outside of the U.S., which is ironic given the insistence of a majority of Americans that ours is a nation founded on Christian principles. Evidently, those Christian principles exclude any responsibility for being your brother's keeper unless your brother lives within the U.S. The non-believers aren't concerned with biblical admonishments but are focused on denying that the President had any input in maneuvering this situation to obtain the ultimate goal of Syria agreeing to get rid of its chemical weapon stockpile; after all, he's just a mindless warmonger.

It's true that the agreement does not address the ongoing civil war in Syria and the death toll from that war continues to rise. It's not a perfect agreement but it does take chemical weapons out of the equation and demonstrates that there can be effective use of diplomatic means to curtail the use of some of the weapons of war. In addition, an agreement by Syria to join the Chemical Weapons Convention is making its way through the legal offices of the UN.

There are some of us, renegade liberals, who believe that we're moving in the right direction, investing our efforts in finding diplomatic resolutions to conflict. We view the careful, negotiations and policies, including a threat to use force if necessary, as being part of a well thought out strategic plan by the administration to achieve the end result that is now on the table--Syria's dismantling of its chemical weapons program. We see President Obama as having skillfully navigated through the coral reefs and made it to a safe port for a brief respite before continuing on in the pursuit of the ever elusive peace, unknown to us in the history of humankind.

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."--Lao-tzu, The Way of Lao-tzu, Chinese philosopher (604 BC - 531 BC)