How #POTUS Should Act in Syrian Crisis

Posted: August 29, 2013 in Piano

Evidently I am going to have to take time out of my busy day to advise my President on foreign policy. Like I don’t have enough to do already!

1. America is a Superpower. We need to start acting like one.

The correct action after 9-11 was to take no immediate action. President George Bush rattled his sabre and charged into a strategy that proved to be a disaster. Now President Obama is rattling his sabre and has committed to actions that come from a hot temper instead of a calm resolve. Had he represented us to be a benevolent superpower, one that sets the example for others, he would not have committed to an immediate action. Cool heads prevail.

2. A Superpower sets the standard for other nations.

We have an obligation to the world to set a moral benchmark for others in international affairs.  We do not have to enforce that benchmark with a military response to immoral behavior. Secretary of State John Kerry’s appeal to action based on a moral premise missed the point entirely. “The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity.” That is true, but the issue is how best to respond. A military response is not appropriate or justified.

Kerry’s speech addresses the horror of chemical warfare. He made the case for some form of retaliation in order to hold Syria accountable. Once again, there are better ways for a Superpower to proceed than to rush to military intervention into a situation that has no direct impact on our nation or our allies. If Syrian leaders bombed its citizenry, then those citizens need to resolve their own crisis. We can help in that effort, but a military strike is simply beyond what is reasonable and prudent.

3. This is not an international problem.

This is a Local Control issue. If Syria had bombed someone in the international community, then a different standard might apply. The use of chemical weapons violates an international law, but the international community is not yet unanimous in how to respond. Allies of Syria have a conflict of interest in the matter, so I would not assign weight to their opinion. President Obama should have immediately appealed to the international community so that we could work with others who share the obligation of enforcing a moral benchmark. In international matters, a superpower is the LAST to speak, not the first.

Speaker of the House John Boehner  has challenged President Obama to explain his position: “It is essential you address on what basis any use of force would be legally justified and how the justification comports with the exclusive authority of Congressional authorization under Article I of the Constitution,” Boehner writes.

If President Obama acts without Congressional approval, the statement above will become Exhibit #1 in an impeachment hearing against the President. Boehner is setting Obama up.  Many Republicans would love to impeach Obama. Boehner is setting the stage for that action, should the President act independent of Congress.

4. The objective is to save lives, not to put more lives at risk.

President Obama has managed to scare a lot of people. Syrians continue to flee from their country. That is exactly what they should do. A military strike will be met with a retaliatory strike from Syria. If we push, they will push back. Israel is the obvious target, but that will only be the first target. Leaders have already said that there is no military solution. That means, there is no way to win a military confrontation. You don’t hit a hornet’s nest with a stick just because someone got stung.

Based on these four points, I submit to the attention of President Obama a strategy that will absolutely KICK Assad in the butt.

1. The best retaliation is to humiliate Assad in the face of his allies and the world. We can do that by performing the duties that he is not doing as the leader of Syria. We take care of his citizens. President Obama should take immediate steps to offer and provide aid to all countries that are receiving refugees from Syria. In the long run, we will be saving people from their dire situation, and building moral credibility with other countries in the region.

2. President Obama needs to let the world know that we will not take any military action against Syria, actions which would gravely affect the citizenry. A military action will put more lives at risk. If we do that, we lose the upper hand in the argument for a more moral world order.

3. We need to inform the citizens of Syria about the facts surrounding the use of chemical weapons. Our efforts will be dismissed by Assad as propaganda, but an informed Syrian citizenry is better able to make an informed decision about how to address their civil issue. It will also reinforce among Syrians that we are a responsible partner in times of crisis.

4. Wait until the international community is ready to respond. The risk here is obvious: Assad may use chemical weapons again against his people. If he does, the reluctance of the international community to take action will begin to erode confidence in its ability to function as an international arbiter.

5. If we pursue the humanitarian course and demonstrate that we have the calm and responsible resolve of a wise and benevolent Superpower, we will install a new moral benchmark that is more compelling than one acquired by force. Assad’s regime will fail eventually. He will become a forgotten footnote in history.  What people will remember is how we behaved during the crisis.

At some point, if we are to sustain a peaceful world, we have to learn to employ peaceful measures when we encounter violent and criminal actions in that world. If we are to work with others in the spirit of respect and dignity, then we should not use our strength to trump the will of our international partners.  If peace is not more powerful than war, then we should not pursue peace. Peace is more powerful and lasting than war. What irritates me is that at no time did we entertain a possible peaceful reaction. Our first reaction was to use the military.

There is a peaceful, diplomatic solution available to us. If it is not immediately apparent, in time it will become apparent. President Obama should not have spoken in haste before all the information was available, but now that he has, he needs to speak in haste to reverse his stance and decrease tensions in the international community.

If he acts without approval from the international community, he will strengthen the argument that as a superpower, we have become a tyrant – a rogue nation that has no intention of deferring to the international community.

If he acts without the approval of Congress, he will probably be impeached for it.

The first course of action, and the only course of action the U.S. should take at this time, is to take care of the people Assad has failed. When Syrians one day return to their country, they will remember how we behaved during their civil crisis.

Sometimes war is the only alternative. This is not one of those times.


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