Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Game Change in Syria

By now you have undoubtedly seen the grizzly pictures of the 108 massacred civilians allegedly executed by the Syrian government in Homs province.  Reports indicate that after shelling the residential area with tanks and artillery, pro government forces went door to door shooting the men point blank and stabbing the women and children.  The United Nations said 49 children and 39 women were among the dead.
The reaction here at home has been swift and naturally along political party lines.  Secretary of State Clinton again echoed the administrations call for Syrian President Bashar al Assad to step down; a statement that one conservative pundit referred to as “insipid rhetoric.” “We cannot allow this to stand” screamed another.  Naturally Senator John McCain blasted the President, blaming Obama’s reluctance to take earlier decisive action as the reason for the massacre.  He called the US response to Assad’s killing of civilians a “shameful episode in America’s history…this administration has a feckless foreign policy that abandons American leadership. It cries out for American leadership; American leadership is not there.”
Mitt Romney wasted no time jumping on the bandwagon, turning a memorial to those who have fallen into a campaign stump speech.  Appearing with McCain at the Veterans Museum and Memorial Center in San Diego Romney warned of threats to America all around the globe.  He argued that American leadership and military might is essential for global piece; and he criticized those who would shrink the military to pay for social programs.
The situation in Syria is a political and diplomatic quagmire.  Unlike Libya where there was broad international support to help the rebels remove Gadhaffi; Assad has powerful regional support from Russia, China and Iran.  Unlike Libya where there was an organized opposition to Gadhaffi that could be armed by the US; opposition in Syria is scattered and disorganized. And US military advisors have said that the no-fly zone successfully implemented in Libya is not a viable option in Syria.
Assad has a military force of 300,000.  The consensus is that the only way for the US to unilaterally and effectively remove the Assad regime is to put military boots on the ground. In other words there is no cheap and easy way to do this.
Not that any of this logic matters to McCain or Romney.  They view any policy that does not involve the US military as the point of the spear as a failed policy and a sign of weakness. 
There is no doubt that the massacre of 108 men, women and children is a game changing event in this conflict.  Russia has taken a hard line warning Assad that he needs to change course or lose their support.  Countries all across the globe are expelling Syrian diplomats.  Perhaps pressure from the international community will now have the desired effect without resorting to military intervention.  Given that any military strike will be essentially a US operation; we hope that sanctions and political pressure prevail.
We continued to believe that war should be the solution of last resort in any conflict.  John McCain and Mitt Romney’s criticism of the President’s policy of international pressure and economic sanctions is the exact same criticism that they levied against him with regards to Libya.  They believe that the only way you stop aggression is through aggression.
Let us never forget that the previous administration ignored international calls for diplomacy and chose to use the boots of the United States military to remove a dangerous dictator in Iraq.  4,480 dead, 32,000 wounded and $803,920,338,347 dollars later we know how that turned out.
Conversely the Obama administration chose to organize an international coalition to lead the removal a dangerous dictator from Libya.  This “lead from behind” strategy that conservatives like to criticize cost the American tax payers less than $1 billion dollars.  More importantly not one single American life was lost.
War hawks like McCain, Romney, Dick Cheney and Lindsay Graham are fond sending our young men and women into battle at the slightest provocation.  They are obsessed with demonstrating the size of America’s penis without contemplating the cost of the aftermath.  America has proven its manhood and leadership often enough in history that we don’t need to go all “cowboy” every time there is a conflict.  Our enemies and our allies are happy to see us expend our resources while they keep their blood and treasure safely at home.
The carnage in Syria must come to an end.  If Assad refuses to step aside then the international community must find away to stop him from executing his own people.  This is not America’s fight alone. World piece is a global responsibility.  Those who scream “We cannot ALLOW this to stand” are arrogant fools who have no understanding of our place in the world community nor any concept of the consequences our actions have on the world stage.  
We have seen the Iraq “cowboy” flick.  It didn’t end well.  Let’s not consider a sequel.   

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