It is also fundamentally clear that the will of people does not support another haphazard amateurish venture into the tribal and religious morass that constitutes the geopolitical swamp of that whole region. Polling indicates that the majority believes the U.S. cannot always be the world's policeman, especially at this particular point in our history. Even President Obama concluded that he is not solely responsible for holding Assad accountable, that is, “drawing a red line,” but rather the world community has established the standard that chemical weapons can never be used.
If President Obama is not advocating unilateral action, why are we even discussing this in Congress? If it is the world's consensus that Assad should be punished, then let those international bodies lead; yet we see no resolutions before the UN and no deployment of NATO. Is this another example of Obama's “leading from behind” the cover of a coalition or a congressional vote?
If there is no support from the international community or domestic support within the United States, then who specifically is to take ownership of this spectacularly high-risk gamble if things go terribly wrong? Why the compelling urgency for acting on this? It would also seem that the time for a suitable response has already passed. As former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton so aptly put, “What difference after all this does it make now?”
That is a good question. What difference could a few cruise missiles make except to extend our national humiliation over our Middle East foreign policy debacles to an even further degree? If this action is not part of a greater strategy to accomplish a defined outcome for the region, then it is utterly foolish. Do we intend to degrade his chemical weapon stores, remove Assad from power or just punish him?
When Gen. Dempsey was asked by Sen. Bob Corker what the administration was “seeking” in Syria, he responded, “I can't answer that, what we are seeking.” Gen. Dempsey had also said earlier in a congressional hearing, “The side we choose must be ready to promote their interests and ours when the balance shifts in their favor. Today, they are not.” He observed, “The use of the U.S. military force can change the military balance, but it cannot resolve the underlying and historic ethnic, religious and tribal issues that are fueling this conflict.”
We are not even absolutely certain that Assad was responsible for the attack. His government has denied it. Why would he risk provoking the world powers by releasing a savage chemical attack when he has been doing quite well using conventional weaponry? Vladimir Putin says that John Kerry “lies openly” and the Assad regime did not launch these attacks, but that radical Islamist rebels are behind this. They hope to lure the U.S. into striking Syria, which will lead to unify Islamists throughout the region. Indeed, the radical Islamic rebels have much to gain by manipulating western nations into joining them in a violent overthrow of Assad.
This is not the foreign policy situation in which America needs to assert its international role. As Gen. Dempsey pointed out, there are too many conflicting and uncertain circumstances, which could draw the United States into another prolonged conflict with dubious results.