There are UN inspectors on the ground in Syria doing their jobs. United Nations chemical experts are in villages where attacks apparently took place, and they are amassing evidence. Of course, there are also those bodies of the dead in hospitals and living victims who are in agonizing pain from the attacks. The question then is not whether or not chemical attacks took place, but rather if these attacks can be connected directly to President Bashar-al-Assad and his regime. Right now there appears to be no direct connection.
President Barack Obama should learn from what has happened before. How can we not forget the faulty intelligence that led up to the Iraq war? How can we not remember that President Bush and his administration seemed ready to get Saddam Hussein and his regime changed long before any evidence was credible?
If history does indeed repeat itself – and it seems an awful lot like Iraq all over again here – then are we destined to make the same mistakes or can we try to take a different path? It seems as if President Obama is being pushed into attacking Syria. We hear that the U.K. wants it and France and other nations, but it is always the United States that gets put into the policeman of the world role. Why exactly is that?
President Obama cannot afford to get involved in another war in the Middle East (or anywhere else for that matter). The American public – while certainly outraged by something so evil as a chemical attack – has wearied of being forever at war. Our military has been engaged in conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq for over a decade, and many believe there is little to show for it. How can Mr. Obama think that we can handle yet another conflict in that part of the world?
The answer is that – even if President Assad is connected to these despicable attacks – it is not up to us to facilitate a military response. The UN is on the ground now, and after a report is made, and if there is tangible evidence of Assad’s connection, then let the UN decide on sanctions or joint military engagement that involves the U.S. as a partner in a coalition. It should no longer be the United States’ responsibility to shoulder the burden of these kinds of attacks when the rest of the world has as much at stake as we do.
President Obama has a chance to define his presidency at this time, just as President Bush did with Iraq. How he chooses to proceed will set the course for the rest of his time in office and be utilized by both parties in forthcoming elections. This is Mr. Obama’s chance to show the world that we are putting down the big stick in favor of discourse and patience. It is time for the United States to heal wounds – at home and abroad – from two wars in the Middle East not create more wounded.
Photo credits: un inspectors-reuters; map-npr.org; planes-wikimedia.org