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While President Obama and Congress pontificate over whether or not Syrian President Basher al-Assad used chemical weapons on his own people and if a limited U.S. attack on Syria is justified, what Washington needs to realize is this: Assad launched sarin gas on its citizens in hope of moving the U.S. like a chess piece into his civil war and deeper onto the Middle East war map.
It might sound crazy to some that Assad would want the U.S. to bomb his own country, but, remember, he’s a dealer in lunacy and a high-risk roller autocrat. If Assad is willing to kill his own people, which clearly has been demonstrated for months and years, do we really think he cares if the U.S. joins his dirty work, especially when he can parade the innocent civilians murdered in U.S. bombing sprees?
According to New York University political scientist Alastair Smith, Assad’s use of chemical weapons is in reality “a brilliant play internationally” on the global field of politics and power – if, of course, you’re viewing it from the psychotic dictator’s position.
Dr. Smith and Bruce Bueno de Mesquita co-authored, “The Dictator’s Handbook: Why bad behavior is almost always good politics,” which is an examination of why autocrats do what they do.
Smith recently explained to Joshua Keating, staff writer for Slate, that “he thinks the use of chemical weapons was a risky but shrewd move that had less to do with punishing the rebels than with sending a signal to his core supporters – predominantly members of the Alawite religious sect – and his most important international allies.”
In his own words, Smith elaborated: “First of all, using chemical weapons has absolutely cemented that for Assad there can be no soft landing. That has two effects: Domestically, it has signaled to his coalition that they should stick with him. He’s there for the long run and there’s no easy way out for him, so they know he won’t desert them. These crimes against humanity have also made it very clear that it’s going to be very bad for the Alawites if there’s any political transition, which makes them even more loyal to him. They have nowhere else to go.”
Smith added, “It’s also been a brilliant play internationally. The extent of the chemical weapons has not been so much that Obama’s willing to put ground forces in. The airstrikes they are discussing are unlikely to be a decisive military factor. And Russia and Iran would love to snub the nose of the U.S. and this is a perfect way to do it. The U.S. is going to have to go it alone if they do it, and this is a great way for Russia and Iran to make the U.S. look impotent and pathetic. Russia’s going to continue supplying [Assad] with weapons and Iran’s going to keep supplying him with money. So this was actually a brilliant play from him.”
The fact is, if the U.S. bombs Syria, we are playing right into Assad’s hands by fueling his very motivation and mission for dropping the chemical weapons in the first place: to increase Syrian support from its allies and anti-American sentiment in the global community and particularly the Middle East.
The problem in this Syrian saga is that the White House isn’t examining the situation according to the power paradigms of dictators, particularly Assad’s. It is responding to it according to the typical model of Western imperialism, and Assad knows it. That’s why he continues to play to his theater and taunt goliath by poking his chest with his words like, “Obama is weak.”
Herein lies the rub. BBC just ran a story this past Saturday, titled, “Syria begs question of America’s role in the world”: “But in the details of the debate over Syria, the biggest questions and the larger picture are in danger of being lost. In essence, it’s whether the world needs a super cop. And whether the U.S. should simply assume that role.”
If I were one of our U.S. lawmakers, I would emphatically tell the president: Quit taking the bait! If all the chemical weapon evidence points straight to Assad’s front door, that doesn’t mean we check in our brains at the door of war and bow down to a Middle East dictator’s mindset.
Proof of the president’s shortsightedness is his naive strategy of a “limited” military campaign in Syria. What a joke and mockery to any opponent or rational mind! What professional fighter says, “I’m going to go into the ring and throw a series of blows and then get out,” as if the opponent has no bearing on counter measures? One can’t limit an attack when you’re kicking hornets’ nests or throwing matches on gasoline!
And do we really want to turn up the heat on a resurrected and simmering Cold War? Just a few days ago, Russia’s President Putin reaffirmed, “Will we help Syria? We will. We are helping them now. We supply weapons, we cooperate in the economic sphere, and I hope we will cooperate more in the humanitarian sphere … to provide help for those people – civilians – who are in a difficult situation today.”
And it’s not merely Assad and Putin waiting in the ring to counter the U.S. hits, but Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, al-Qaida, ad infinitum. And with our ally Israel in the region, who is already hated by most, there’s no telling the outcome. It is no exaggeration to say that a single, unilateral U.S. strike on Syria could spark fires that lead to the inferno of World War III.
So what should the U.S. and Obama do instead of bombing Syria in haste?
First, quit unilaterally drawing red lines with any country that poses no imminent threat to the U.S. Quit puffing your chest and proving yourself. Our track record is clear enough.
Second, before it’s too late, tell the American public that you absolutely won’t go it alone against Syria, if you don’t have the majority of Congress and a strong international coalition behind you.
Third, go out, present evidence and gather as much international and congressional support that you can so that whatever actions are taken against Syria are clearly a collective front.
Fourth, if you have the majority support, then together decide on the best course of action – whether that’s a multi-nation attack on various Syrian military and hot spots, or further arming and enabling pro-democracy resistance groups in the country, or utilizing some covert moves against the regime that the world never connects to U.S. or the national community.
Our president has already confessed that the Syrian mission is “not time sensitive” and Assad’s actions pose “no imminent, direct threat” to the U.S. The only U.S. threat there is at this point is to the president’s pride, ego and his willingness to humble himself for the sake of our military and country’s future, our standing in the world and especially our entanglement further in Middle East affairs.
As a six-time world karate champion, I know something about fighting, winning and losing. Sometimes one has to lose a battle to win a war, if only in appearance before certain others. And the truth is, Mr. President, sometimes you win, sometimes you learn. My advice is to learn it now before it’s too late for all of us.
Assad placed Obama (and, hence, America) in checkmate when he launched chemical weapons upon his people. The temptation is to blow up his chess pieces. But the right and wise move is to step away from the table, quit playing his game and form our own.
(The Syrian crisis is all the more reason to call up America’s spiritual reserves by observing a National Day of Prayer and Fasting this Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013. You can register your intent to participate and help spread the word by going to 911DayofPrayer.com. And a day later on 9/12, join thousands of businesses across the U.S. in showing appreciation for U.S. military forces by providing free goods and services. To see a complete list of offers from business participants in your state, please click here.)