Heading into fall after
a long hard summer of political debate, following roughly five years
of Americans being divided by race, creed, shades of color, sex, age
and partisan inclination, we have good news about America: We are
united again. Democrats, independents and Republicans, conservatives
and liberals, who had already begun to find common ground over the
NSA violation of our privacy, are speaking out together about
involvement in Syria. We are reaching across our aisles! And
finally, many more of us are sharing a valid skepticism about what
we are told by our government.
Some of us acquired
that skepticism when we were lied to during the Vietnam War. Others
picked it up more recently, with the outrageous Benghazi cover-up.
Some responded to the news of a chemical weapons attack in Syria
with doubt that it ever happened, or at least doubt about which
combatants in the civil war did it.
According to the most
recent NBC poll, a strong majority of us disapprove of President
Obama’s handling of the situation in Syria. Even when he was
preparing to make a unilateral presidential decision for unilateral
national action there, 80 percent of us wanted him to consult our
representatives in Congress.
Enjoying the rare
feeling of being in the majority, I called my U.S. senators and
Congressman Tierney last Friday, asking that at least they demand a
vote of Congress before attacking Syria. On Saturday, Obama asked
for that vote.
Now that Congress will
be having a debate on Syria, I hope these questions will be asked:
Why are we involving
ourselves in another country’s civil war, again? What have we
accomplished in Libya and Egypt except to get an ambassador and Navy
Seals killed and America’s fundamentalist Muslim enemies empowered?
If the issue, as Obama
claims, is only that the world community can’t allow the use of
chemical weapons against innocent civilians, why did we all accept
their use to kill 5,000 Kurds in 1988? We did eventually go to war
against Saddam Hussein, but that wasn’t the reason.
If the chemical weapons
are the reason we go to war now, is our goal, as Obama says, just to
punish the perpetrator? Are we going to bomb Assad’s house, as we
once bombed Gaddafi’s in Libya? I’m hearing only that we are going
to bomb airfields, haven’t seen anything that indicates the chemical
weapons were launched from airfields. Isn’t any attack likely to
kill even more innocent civilians, or encourage a counter-attack
Is gassing them the
worst thing that a dictator can do to his people? A UN Commission of
Public Inquiry has recently heard testimony about conditions in
North Korea: Dictator Kim Jong Un is torturing and starving
thousands in prison camps, where some are forced by sadistic guards
to eat live rats. If, as Obama says, we aren’t looking for regime
change, what good will his “limited action” do the Syrians? Over
100,000 of them were killed by conventional weapons before chemical
weapons were used.
If the world is
outraged by the use of chemical weapons, why aren’t other countries
eager to help the U.S. do something about this outrage?
By the way, even if we
can justify going to war, however limited, how do we pay for this?
Can we borrow from China to attack Syria?
Vice President Joe
Biden appears to be supporting President Obama on this. Yet, in Bob
Woodward’s “Obama’s War,” Biden was the administration
representative who constantly asked both the civilian and military
professionals the question, “What is our mission in Afghanistan?” He
seemed frustrated when he couldn’t get an answer. Maybe he could
explain to Congress what our mission is in Syria.
Sen. John McCain is
arguing that there are responsible revolutionaries in Syria who are
not radical jihadists; call them “freedom fighters” if you will.
Reminds me of U.S. support for “freedom fighters” against the Soviet
Union in Afghanistan; after our “joint” victory, the fundamentalist
Taliban came to power. More recently, in Egypt, we helped depose
another pro-American dictator and then saw a once-stable country so
threatened by the Muslim Brotherhood that the military had to step
in. Who or what will replace Assad if we get drawn into “regime
change” despite Obama’s assurances that we won’t? As Sen. Rand Paul
said, “I’m not convinced that anybody on the Islamic side, the
Islamic rebels, will be American allies.”
However, he predicted
that the Democratic-controlled Senate would “rubber stamp” the
request but that the House vote will be very close. Considering that
support for military action doesn’t line up by party or ideology,
I’m going to predict that unless something happens in the interim to
make sense of all the typical Mideast complexity, the vote will be
No. This will give Obama a way out of the “red line in the sand”
challenge that he obviously didn’t think through before he flexed
our country’s muscle, then backed down.
It’s too late to worry
about saving America’s face; we lost our credibility when we
re-elected a weak, incompetent, foolish president. Until we are
beyond this unfortunate era of our history, we can’t pretend to be
the super-power we once were; we aren’t even leading the world by
shining example anymore.