There is no good solution!
We have asked repeatedly for someone to lay out a plan for the aftermath of a US military strike in Syria. After hours of reading opinion pieces and scouring through blogs we found nothing but the sound of crickets chirping on a summer night. The silence is deafening. So we thought that we’d take a crack at it.
The first thing you need to know is that there is no appetite for this strike domestically or internationally.
A recent opinion poll shows that 80% of our war weary nation opposes the president’s plan to strike. On Capitol Hill the vote is looking decidedly against the president as well. True, the Foreign Intelligence Committee recently voted to authorize the president to act. But that resolution included a long term commitment to turn the tide of the war against the regime by funding the supply of military arms and munitions to the rebel opposition. That part of the resolution will face an uphill battle in the full Senate as is all but doomed in the House. Internationally our strongest Ally, Great Britain, has declined to participate. And at the G20 Summit taking place in St. Petersburg even our traditional supporters are demonstrating a lack of will to enforce international law.
The truth of the matter is that there are a number of members of congress who would ordinarily support the president’s plan to use military force; but they fear facing a primary challenge over their vote in the mid-terms. So they spend their time counting votes, hoping that they can find a path to vote “No” while the resolution passes without their support. Internationally there are a number of nations that would like nothing better than to have the US remove Assad and his chemical weapons from the equation. But they fear retribution from radical factions if they support ANY further US intervention in the region.
Now that you have an idea of the climate in which the president is operating, let’s take a look at the alternatives.
If the president decides to attack what will be the result? While the president has been contemplating his decision Assad has been moving his assets to the cover of residential neighborhoods, schools and mosques. Any military attack is bound to kill or injure many civilians. Assad will make certain that the dead will be displayed for the entire world to see as just another example of US aggression. In order to save face Assad will be forced to respond; perhaps ordering additional chemical weapon strikes against the rebels or attacking US allies and interests in the region. The NSA has already intercepted transmissions from Iran ordering their terrorist cells in Iraq to attack the US embassy and other US installations if the US attacks Syria. The call for retribution will spread to anti-American cells throughout the Middle East. The violence will escalate. The president has promised that this strike will be limited and under no circumstances will he order American boots on the ground. How can he sure? Will he simply sit back while the violence of reprisal explodes throughout the region? Domestically he will lose credibility with the electorate who made clear their opposition. Dragging a war weary nation into another armed conflict will not be looked upon kindly in the upcoming mid-term elections; especially when 80% of the people disapprove. His party and his supporters will take a big hit perhaps losing both the House and the Senate.
But what if the president decides to do nothing? Certainly his credibility will take a hit both here and abroad. His political enemies will portray him as weak and “leading from behind.” Whether they can translate his perceived weakness into victory during the mid-terms remains to be seen. He will suffer on the international front as well. Our foreign enemies will declare victory. They will characterize him as weak and indecisive. They will be emboldened to ramp up their attacks against US allies and their interests. Iran will push forward with its nuclear weapons program and expand its terror operations throughout the region. The United States is the only nation that CAN stand up to Assad’s aggression. If the president backs down then America’s place in the world order will be sorely diminished.
So what is the answer? The truth is that there are no good answers.
As “Weekly Standard” editor and columnist William Kristol recently wrote: “There are only two solutions. One is problematic. The other is disastrous.”
The question is which is which.
There is no question that president Obama has made a mess of this entire Syrian situation. Dithering and politicking over whether to take the nation to war is unacceptable. And to those Obama supporters who would defend his indecisiveness by wailing about what a tough job this is; let us remind them that Barak Obama ran for this office…willingly…aggressively…twice. If the president believes that attacking Syria is proper action to take then he needs to own it…and convince the American people and the international community that it is not the easy thing but it is the right thing to do.
A lot can happen between now and when congress is expected to vote next Wednesday. Most of congress is still away on their five week recess. (Hard to believe given the importance of the current circumstances.) They will be returning to Washington were they will receive extensive briefings that may alter their thinking. The all powerful American Israel Public Affairs lobbying group has yet to weigh in. And the president is expected to address the nation next Tuesday night (Can’t compete with Sunday Night or Monday Night football.) where he will have the opportunity to convince the nation and the world that Assad must be punished for his use of chemical weapons. He will need all of his impressive oratory skills for this one.
And there is some hope that some sort of compromise could be reached. Perhaps the international community gives Assad 30, 60, 90 days to sign the chemical weapons ban and provide concrete evidence that he is taking steps to destroy his chemical weapons stockpiles.
There is no good solution.
But rightly or wrongly it is the leader of the free world’s responsibility to find one.