Thursday, August 29, 2013

President Obama Has Dug Himself Into A Hole: How Will The Crisis In Syria Play Out?

     Secretary of State John Kerry issued a fiery and booming proclamation concerning the chemical weapons attack on civilians in Syria recently.  Kerry is insinuating inevitable military intervention by the United States against the Assad regime.  There is still much speculation, however, as to what the Obama Administration will do and in what capacity they will carry these acts out.  The most common speculation is the use of targeted cruise missile strikes against suspected chemical weapons facilities.  Many have been and are still echoing the implementation of a no-fly zone which would require taking out the Syrian Air Force thus providing cover from the air but producing casualties on both sides.  The Obama Administration is now fully committed to their threat against Syria having crossed a "red-line" with the use of chemical weapons.  It's no secret the President has been treading lightly on intervention but he has now boxed himself into a corner and has no choice but to act, or further contribute to America's facade on foreign violators of human rights. 
     President Obama's first mistake in this conflict was issuing the "red-line" threat.  Now while it is nearly impossible to be completely isolationist in this modern era of globalization, the United States should take a stand against becoming the world's superman-swooping down to rescue any nation in distress.  Despite sounding cynical, the United States has just put an end to a lengthy, costly, bloody, and unproductive war in Iraq (especially since there is talk of a more resurgent al-Qaeda in the region spurring sectarian violence again), and troops are not even completely out of Afghanistan-America's longest war.  With the "red line" comment Obama was most likely attempting to emphasize the United States' commitment to human rights and maintaining our world hegemony.  But now he is seeing the complications and the side effects of those words.
      It was during the Carter Administration that human rights violations became enough to warrant military action.  The United Nations is virtually powerless to affect these types of dictators.  Their peace keepers provide little security to those in distress.  The Assad regime has challenged the United States and the rest of the world to come in and stop him.  If the President takes action and fails, it will be a huge victory for Assad and radical regimes alike (i.e. Iran).  The Clinton Administration maintained that we were an "indispensable nation" and this would be a term Secretary of State Madeleine Albright would utter frequently.  That was during a time of budget surpluses and an administration which put foreign policy on the back burner.  After the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the United States is no longer "indispensable."  Nation building is only as good as the resources of the nation providing the building and the United States is staring default in the face and rising income inequality.   
     Congress is also another hurdle President Obama must overcome.  While some members of Congress have verbally expressed their support for President Obama to use whatever military force he deems fit, others, such as John Boehner, are asking that he should seek the approval of Congress as outlined in the Constitution.
     President Obama has modeled his foreign policy on bringing troops home and not engaging in new conflicts.  He campaigned against the Iraq war in 2008 and was a fresh new face for Americans who fervently opposed the Neoconservative movement.  This is why Libya and Syria are intriguing.  The key difference between the current conflict and Libya is that the United States was committed to playing a backseat role in the conflict to other nations.  England and France lead the charge against Gaddafi and the regime while the United States assisted only with drone strikes.  Boots on the ground were not an option for Obama who received harsh criticism from the likes of John McCain.  At the time we were still engaged in Iraq and deploying more troops would have been even more consequential to our growing debt problems.
     President Obama bypassed Congress to authorize force in Libya because coincidentally, Congress was not in session then which raises a plethora of new Constitutional concerns regarding non-session military force authorizations (although if there was a matter of utmost importance, Congress would be called back to vote).
     The world community was against the United States invading Iraq and it proved to be a huge mistake.  There is a major difference between this conflict and Iraq, however.  As Thomas Friedman states, "what we’ve learned in Bosnia, Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Egypt and Syria is that it is very hard to change another country’s internal behavior — especially at a cost and in a time frame that the American public will tolerate — because it requires changing a country’s political culture and getting age-old adversaries to reconcile."  Unlike Iraq, Obama is not trying to change the scope of the people.  Ronald Reagan stated that there is no room for terror activity and Obama has almost overcompensated for decades of democrat opposition to the party being weak on defense and terror.
     Currently, the Syrian situation is snowballing into a similar connotation associated with the global perception of military intervention in Iraq ten years ago with the British Parliament voting against involvement and Prime Minister David Cameron affirming he will respect that decision.  Now with little allied support it appears as if the United States may be proceeding alone.  President Obama has sent several warships into the region gearing up for a strike when UN officials exit the country.  The Assad regime along with its allies are poised to retaliate.  Unlike similar human rights interventions in Kosovo and Yugoslavia, Syria has powerful allies and proxies to do their dirty work for them.  President Obama's cause is benevolent but the greater good may not benefit his reputation, our world standing, or the overall well-being of our nation.  Despite Obama having backed himself into a corner with no other options, this is not a conflict worth our involvement.           

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