The thing seems pretty complex, doesn’t it?
The president, our commander in chief with so little experience at his job and such a history of disdain for anything to do with military matters, drew a “red line” regarding Syria’s actions. Though he recently remembered the United Nations had said something similar, he presented the notion of Syria using “bunches of chemical weapons” as his personal “red line,” which if stepped over would cause him to do something terrible.
“Don’t mess with me, brother Assad. I’m a bad dude, and you’d best not cross me,” he seemed to be saying.
And even as he said it, he likely felt safe in a little bravado – because surely the Syrian dictator wasn’t that crazy. The president has been increasingly seen, even by leg-tickled fans like Chris Matthews, as vacillating, indecisive and lacking in any real leadership about anything. So a little unaccustomed show of machismo might help.
But then came the chemical weapon massacre of over 1,000 people, men, women and as many as 400 children. The world saw scene after scene of innocent non-combatants, little kids, writhing in the certain throes of agonizing death.
Cut to the White House. The president and his little team are huddled, frantically trying to handle this crisis. Not the crisis in Syria. The crisis looming over the president himself, his image, his improvident, braggadocio “red line” comment about anybody who might to dare cross him – not the world community of nations, but him, the man who’d said so publicly that crossing that chemical “red line” would be unacceptable to him, that it would change his “calculus.”
There was no reference to what America might feel necessary to do, what the military or Congress might ordain – or better, what a coalition of sane and responsible nations might decide to do, together. No, at that safe, secure moment, it was a question of what he, the most powerful man in the world, might feel compelled to do.
And now his hand was called. Assad had done the unthinkable, and now it was back to President Obama to do … what? Start another war, with a madman backed by Russia? He, who had opposed every military operation and appropriations bill during his brief time as a senator and cut short the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan? He, who had excoriated Bush for attacking Saddam? Impossible – but he had to do something, didn’t he?
Well, either he or a close adviser came up with an idea: to suddenly call on Congress, up till now his political whipping boy, to make the decision with him, to spread the responsibility (and the likely blame for whatever happened) around. If whatever they might collectively do was ineffectual, or worse, if it escalated into a full-scale war, it would be “their fault” – or at least not just his.
And best yet, if they denied him the authority to “send the shot across the bow” – whatever that might mean – why, he could blame them for that, too! The commander wanted to smack the dictator down, but that immoral Congress wouldn’t let him! Beautiful!
Complicated? Not really.
Here’s the realistic picture. The timid school kid, wanting to impress his equally intimidated pals, runs across the school playground and sticks his tongue out at the school bully – and runs away, back to his buddies, feeling brave. He didn’t want a real confrontation, he just wanted to have something to brag about to his pals. The last thing he really wanted was a fight.
Now Congress, both houses, are having to treat the president’s “red line” as if they – or we Americans – had made that declaration, and have to support it and act on it. Some in Congress are actually saying “America will seem weak,” and “we’ll lose the world’s respect,” if we don’t follow through and “fire a shot across Assad’s bow.”
What shot? What bow? The president said “it doesn’t matter if it takes a week, or even a month” to shoot it. Shoot it where? At whom? He’s already given Assad more than enough time to move all his chemical weaponry into safe places, and there are reports that he, like other terrorist organizations, will purposely station likely targets in populous places where thousands of innocent civilians will take the hit of the “shot across the bow.”
And big bad capitalist militarist uncaring America will be the villain in the world’s eyes. More dead bodies, innocent victims, yes even children. The world will blame America, not Assad.
So what should we do?
I’m just one guy, one American, but so far the polls all say I’m in synch with most of my fellow citizens in wanting Congress to say to the president, in effect, “Hey, we didn’t draw your ‘red line.’ You didn’t consult us about that; in fact, you haven’t really consulted us about anything! Don’t drag our country into this. The notion that you can, in a day or two, antiseptically fire some missiles into Syria, not hurt any innocent civilians but do some terrible damage to Assad himself or destroy his air force or wipe out his chemical weapons, in two days – when you’ve given him lots of time to protect himself – is idiocy! And then you think you can just smack your hands together, think ‘I showed him’ and declare it’s over? Just shows how little you actually know about anything military! No sir, you’re on your own. Like the British Parliament, we deny you the authority to involve us in Syria’s domestic violence, horrific and barbaric as it certainly is. You grew up in Indonesia, you’re familiar with Middle Eastern mentality, you’ve seen those people in power frequently slaughter their own subjects mercilessly. You think your ‘shot’ is going to change that? Scare them? Who are you kidding? Not us!
“Have you ever heard of the Monroe Doctrine? Agreeing with Presidents Washington and Jefferson, who both warned against involving ourselves in other nations’ problems, the fifth president stated emphatically that we should not only deny others’ interference in our affairs – but we should definitely stay out of theirs!
“Mr. President, here’s a shot across your bow: Show your outrage and compulsion to act on behalf of the brave Americans who died in Benghazi, abandoned under your command. You promised to avenge them, but you won’t even let Congress identify or interview the witnesses who were there 9/11 last year! Let Syria take care of Syria. You take care of the Americans who elected you!
“Sir, we have declared ourselves in our Pledge ‘One nation under God.’ Assad and Syria have their own god; perhaps Allah will guide them to a happy solution. But you, sir, will not drag this nation into their civil war. Not while the legislative branch of this blessed republic represents the will of the American people.”
“Better to hear the quiet words of a wise person
than the shouts of a foolish king.
Better to have wisdom than weapons of war.”
– Ecclesiastes 9:17,18