Lead Story: President Obama Buys Time & Averts a Crisis

By Kollengode S Venkataraman

ObamaIn his talk to the nation on September 10 President Obama, recognizing the lack of support, wisely asked the Congress to postpone the vote granting him the power to attack Syrian President Assad for using chemical weapons on his citizens. President Obama opted instead to use the opening Russia gave that seeks to disarm Syria without US military attack. This buys Mr. Obama time to think through all possible fallouts of such a unilateral and limited surgical missile attack by US forces with “no-boots-on-the ground.”

It is not even clear who used the chemical weapons—the Syrian military under Assad’s orders, rogue Syrian military officers or the rebels.

The US record on matters of chemical weapons is not all that clean. We turned the other way when Saddham Hussein used chemical weapons against Iran in the 1980s. In the 1960s and 70s, in Vietnam US used napalm bombs on nonmilitary targets with devastating effects, and sprayed defoliants over large areas of forests and farm lands—a form of chemical warfare—whose effect was tens of thousands of Vietnamese women delivering babies with grave abnormal deformities.

George W. Bush had with him the tenuous Coalition of the Willing in his war against Iraq when he did not get the UN support. Now Obama was about to become the missile-slinging Lone Ranger planning an attack on Syria in what he calls a surgically precise, short-duration aerial combat. He had no support from other nations (including the “special relations” Britain), the UN Security Council, US Congress or the American public.

Rationalizing his resolve for a military assault on Syria, Obama also said, “[G]overnments representing 98 percent of the world’s population said the use of chemical weapons [is] abhorrent.”  If nations representing 98% of the population have signed the treaty against chemical weapons, why does the US representing only 5% of the world population have to go alone? Where are the nations representing the remaining 93%—the Arab League, our Persian Gulf and NATO military allies, Saudi Arabia, Turkey,  and Iraq where we waged a 10-year war with almost 4,500 dead US soldiers, over 30,000 wounded soldiers requiring care for the next several decades, not to speak of the several hundred thousand Iraqi civilian deaths?  And the Iraq war cost  us over a trillion-dollars so far. After all, our Arab military allies and friends in the region have been benefitting by the American military involvement there without spilling a drop of their own blood.

Just because Mr. Obama drew the red line arbitrarily, he wants the war-weary Congress and the citizenry to support him for one more military adventure in a region where US blood has been spilling for over 10 years, and where our credibility is already low.  Is this how the leader of the Sole Super Power should go about making decisions on war?

Oh, by the way, we will exceed our debt ceiling in the next several weeks, and the federal government is already in sequestration, we are barely out of a deep economic downturn with anemic new job growth, and we have mounting budget and trade deficits; and we have to take care of so many domestic problems we have been neglecting for over 15 years.

To understand the conundrum of the Syrian Situation and how intractable the Middle East is, go here. Do we really want this war?  ♦

  1. No comments yet.

You must be logged in to post a comment.