It would appear that some sort of U.S. military action (the Obama administration is hellbent on avoiding the phrase "act of war") will take place against Syria.
Several thoughts have gone through my head the past week, so I will attempt to convey them here (in no particular order).
- The President boxed himself in last year when he indicated the use of biological and/or chemical weapons is a red line that must not be crossed by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
Whether the President fully contemplated the weight of his statements is anybody's guess. But his actions since June (when chemical weapons were allegedly used against rebel forces looking to oust al-Assad) would suggest that he never really thought the regime would cross that proverbial red line. It's almost as if this potential military action is merely an exercise in saving face. Hence, the President used house money (i.e. America's reputation) when conveying those warnings.
- There were members of Congress who were indignant over the possibility that President Obama might bypass them and act unilaterally. Of course, the comeback from Obama apologists was Bush did the same thing concerning the war in Iraq. That is utterly false. Congress voted to give President Bush the authority to conduct the Iraqi conflict as his administration saw fit. It was only when things went south in terms of the war's popularity that the leftist politicians bailed, knowing full well the mainstream media wouldn't call them on it.
Anyhow, there was no way Obama wouldn't consult Congress. It was his one opportunity to avoid the potential Syrian conflict altogether by having Congress (especially the GOP-led House) not sign on to this (which is a distinct possibility). Therefore, he can lay blame at the feet of Republicans (his favorite pastime) while also placating Constitutional purists.
Heck, even if Congress gives its blessing, President Obama may well use the matter as a cudgel to get other things done, i.e. raising of the debt ceiling. Since sequestration will take effect next month, in turn hitting hard the Pentagon budget, House Republicans would have to acquiesce to a debt ceiling increase to pay for a conflict that could easily cost billions of dollars.
- There's been a popular chanting point among the isolationist wing of the Ron Paul "WIBERTY!" crowd concerning the Syrian situation. The theory is the Democrats (and their supporters) will suddenly become the "chicken hawks" while the GOP and its ilk will all of a sudden be the staunch anti-war zealots. Both scenarios would be a complete role reversal from the Iraqi conflict. Meanwhile, the "WIBERTY!" crowd can lay claim to how they've been the only section of the populous who has been consistent on matters concerning war or military intervention.
Alas, it's not that simple.
Lest we forget a good number of the pro-Iraq war Congressional Republicans were swept out of office in 2006 and 2008. But when the GOP regained control of the House in 2010 and made a dent in the Dem majority in the Senate that same election, many of the new elected officials were of the Tea Party/libertarian wing of the party. Therefore, the fact more Republicans might oppose intervention in Syria has more to do with another sect within the party outside the McCain/Graham/Boehner/Cantor establishment wing.
- Speaking of war opposition, where are all protesters drawing Hitler mustaches on the Commander in Chief or putting the word "Murderer" beneath his portrait? And what about media darling Cindy Sheehan, a grieving Gold Star Mother who was used as a prop at every opportunity to make the case against "Bush's war?" After all, Mrs. Sheehan did weigh in on a potential war in Syria. So why hasn't she been given a platform here?
Oh that's right. There's a Democrat occupying the Oval Office these days.
- President Bush's most vocal critics regarding the Iraq war often bemoaned the lack of a strategy despite the plan being laid out incessantly. Bush (again, for better or worse) believed in "regime change", in that a dictatorial government (in this case, Saddam Hussein's regime) would be overthrown in favor of a democratic system where the citizens would be allowed to choose their leadership. Once that government was in place, the U.S. military would ensure security until the Iraqi military would be up to the task (hence the Bush administration mantra of "when they stand up, we'll stand down"). Unfortunately, the amount of sectarian violence waged by the insurgents was woefully underestimated.
With all that in mind, what exactly is the objective for a military strike in Syria and how do we avoid the same miscalculations? We've heard the goal is to send a message to the likes of Iran, North Korea, Hezbollah and any other country/organization that America will not tolerate the use of biological & chemical weapons on innocent people. If indeed that is the goal of this operation, is bombing an aspirin factory or launching a million dollar missile into an empty tent and hitting a camel in the butt going to send the desired message? Highly unlikely. The prevailing thought is to launch a big enough military operation to impact the direction of the Syrian civil war, ultimately removing al-Assad. Then what? At this point, the majority of the rebel forces looking to take out al-Assad are al-Qaeda subsidiaries, similar to what the U.S. was attempting to drive out of Iraq. Do we honestly want another country in the Middle East to fall under rule of a radical Islamic movement?
Unfortunately, the opportunity to turn over Syria to a moderate faction of rebels dissipated earlier this year. Since many of the "moderate" forces are now on the sidelines, the only way for them to wrest any meaningful control would be for the current rebel forces and the al-Assad regime to wipe each other out. It doesn't appear that the Obama administration is willing to let such a scenario play out.
One thing all parties and ideologies can agree upon: Any decision made will not come without a certain amount of anguish.