Obama credibility is what's at stake

Obama credibility is what's at stake

Given his zig-zag approach, it is worth wondering if President Obama really wants authority from Congress to attack Syria.

The irony of ironies is that the impending debate in Congress about whether to authorize President Obama to punish Syria for using chemical weapons is that it has very little to do with Syria — it's really about Iran.

Obama has repeatedly stated that the United States will not allow the theocrats who rule Iran with an iron hand to obtain a nuclear weapon. Despite the warning and in the face of punishing international economic sanctions, they have taken one step after another in pursuit of that goal. So far, the Iranians have not been intimidated by Obama's declaration, and, after watching him stagger in confusion on Syria, they have to be feeling better and better about the chance that he doesn't have the stomach to back up his words.

It is in that context the congressional debate on Syria will unfold.

Once again, the Middle East is in flames, the result of a misnamed "Arab spring" in which the long-oppressed people in various countries like Egypt, Libya and Syria have moved to overthrow dictators, some of whom were more brutal than others.

Who can forget President Obama demanding that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak step down, only to see him replaced by an elected representative of the Muslim Brotherhood later removed from power in a military coup? Who can forget President Obama eschewing congressional authorization by launching U.S. military force that led to the removal and killing of Libyan dictator Moamar Gadhafi?

Now it's Syria that is in the midst of a brutal civil war, and the rebels seeking to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are no better, and probably worse, than al-Assad himself. Democratic forces who initiated the rebellion against al-Assad have been supplanted by representatives of al-Qaida, the terror group that masterminded the 9/11 attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.

Obama has stated repeatedly from the beginning that al-Assad must be removed from power. He also warned that if al-Assad used chemical weapons he would be crossing a "red line" that would result in military action by the United States. Not long after Obama issued his warning, Syria is believed to have used chemical weapons, an action Obama ignored.

In the last two weeks, the Syrians are believed to have again crossed Obama's red line, killing thousands of innocents in the process. Secretary of State John Kerry professed to be so outraged that he described al-Assad's action as a "moral obscenity" that could not go unpunished.

Well, so far it has, the result of a last-minute policy switch in which Obama decided not to assert his authority as commander-in-chief, but instead to wait for Congress to return from a summer break to debate and then vote on whether to authorize Obama to use force.

But it's not that simple. How much force is necessary, and for what purpose? Tactics alone are insufficient to achieve a favorable outcome; there also must be a well-conceived strategy that justifies them.

So far, answers have proved elusive.

Obama initially suggested he would fire a shot across the bow to let al-Assad know the U.S. is not pleased by his violations of international norms. But al-Assad already knows that, and Obama's shot across the bow would be a small price to pay. Obama also has suggested he might launch a few missiles to get al-Assad's attention.

Finally, after getting a pep talk from Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain, Obama is indicating he'll launch a muscular air attack aimed at causing severe damage to Syria's military capabilities.

But if Obama is too successful in degrading al-Assad's military capability, it could result in the al-Qaida elements taking charge of the country. Do we really want that? It could be Afghanistan, used by al-Qaida as a launching ground for 9/11, all over again.

Further, given the advance warning to Syria, can the United States achieve its military goals? If not, how long does the U.S. keep up the fight? Will the United State still be bombing Syria a year from now? Or will we call off the dogs after a few weeks? If it's the latter, what will Iran think?

Obama has painted himself and his country into a corner. There's no good option here. The only valid reason for Congress to back him on Syria is to try to restore some of the credibility he has squandered. As for re-establishing humanitarian ground rules in the ongoing civil war, that's a lost cause.

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STM wrote on September 05, 2013 at 11:09 am

All this from the editorial staff who believed each and every one of the 935 lies (Source: Center for Public Integrity) the Bush administration used to sell us on Iraq.  You (News Gazette) have absolutely no credibility on this issue.  You ran down anti-war protesters locally who were trying to open our eyes to the Bush administrations lies.  Now, after our country has paid dearly for those lies in terms of blood and treasure, you have the nerve to criticize the current administration for taking what the most reasoned among us would consider a cautious approach to an incredibly complex problem.  If we attack it could create a broader conflict, if we don't we green-light the Assad regime to more atrocities and Iran to a larger role in the region.

This administration, in presenting the strike proposal to congress is actually following the law—reasserting the constitutional requirement.  The Bush administration lied first, then acted unilaterally.  I still believe the entire malignant bunch of them should be serving time. The Bush administration destroyed our credibility on these issues years ago and made a train-wreck of foreign policy (not to mention the economy).  Now, you're going to blame Obama for that too.

And still, the News Gazette never gets it right.  How do you people sleep at night?

bluegrass wrote on September 05, 2013 at 5:09 pm

Just a couple of quick questions. 

1.  How does one come by the title, "most reasoned among us"?

2.  Do the most reasoned among us believe that launching missiles into cities represents a "cautious approach"?

3.  Do the most reasoned among us believe that launching missiles against the Syrian government is an act of war?  If this is not a reasonable definition, please provide a definition.

4.  Is the launching of missiles against the Syrian government an appropriate response for using chemical weapons?  If so, is it reasonble to have opposed the war against Saddam Hussein who most certainly did kill thousands with chemical weapons, and support a war (or your definition of firing missiles into cities) against Assad?

STM wrote on September 06, 2013 at 8:09 am

Well, I'm probably the least reasoned among us and I don't usually advocate any military intervention, especially where there's a high risk of killing innocents.  I guess my lost point (due to my ham-handed writing skills) was that the News Gazette has a history of double-standards (when it comes to partisan politics) and being on the wrong side of history (Iraq war...where there have been many thousands of civilian casualties).

By cautious, I should have said they've probably spent some time thinking about it versus having already gone ahead and "dunnit" (a Bush-ism).

Yes, any time anyone launches missiles into another country it is an act of war. Assad gassing his own people is a crime and the U.S. isn't, but occasionally ends up being,+ the world's policeman (which I am also opposed to) The international community is more divided on this issue than our own government, so they're no help.  It would be preferable if the UN would step up and do something, but I won't hold my breath.

Why did we wait 12 years after the 1st Gulf war to go after Saddam?  Shouldn't daddy-Bush have handled that one with a more finite plan than the 10 year war and a permanent presence his son gave us?  This whole thing's a damned mess and the News Gazette is still the least credible newspaper on the issue.  Its subscribers deserve a more reasoned editorial.

bluegrass wrote on September 06, 2013 at 11:09 am

Did you ever tire of a divorced friend or family member who, even years after the divorce, still blames their ex for all their problems?  That blame becomes part of their personality, and they actually come to rely on it.  It's sad.  

One can spend many hours, months, even years thinking about something.  That time spent doesn't make a bad idea a good idea.  By the way, we're past the point of thinking about it.  The discussion at this time, is whether or not to fire missiles into cities, where it is 100% certain that innocent people will be injured, and killed.  

I'm still unsure of why you're writing, other than to blast Bush and the News Gazette.  So let's break it down, by a reasoned approach.

Do you support Obama's plan of a limited military strike on the Syrian government, as a response to their using chemical weapons?

If you do, what will be the result of the strike.  In other words, what is the mission for the military and how do we define victory?

If you do not support a strike against Syria, how does your dissent differ from that of the News Gazette?

 

 

Nero Wolfe wrote on September 07, 2013 at 7:09 pm

Keep clinging to your "Bush lied" mantra. You won't have it much longer. 

Some of the most reasoned among us are asking where Syria got the WMD's. And the obvious answer is...from Saddam. Because you see...Bush was right all along. 

wayward wrote on September 05, 2013 at 12:09 pm

What if Obama realizes that there's no good solution to Syria and doesn't really want to get the US military involved, but doesn't want to look indifferent either?

STM wrote on September 06, 2013 at 1:09 pm

I do not support a U.S. only response, but there should be a response.  Use of chemical weapons is cowardly.

Any strike or action should have an ultimate goal of weakening the Assad regime and discouraging further use of chemical weapons

I differ from you and the News Gazette in that I don't find it being Obama who has "painted us into a corner" but the ex-wife, the Bush administration.  By the ex-wife lying us into international disrepute regarding military engagements, neither we or our allies have the stomach for such things...we're tired of it.

I find the News Gazette and yourself are looking to blame the situation on the current administration when the problem is decades old.  I find Obama to be remarkably similar to the ex-wife on many issues, but he's also had to clean up a lot of her messes.  When the ex had problems, we were all told to rally 'round our president, now I guess we need to slam him every chance we get.

That is where we differ.  So...enough of your defensive complaining about calling out Bush for his mistakes.  There were so many, we're paying for them daily.