Listening to this debate over the use of military force in Syria is a real head scratcher.
First of all you have the president issuing a very emphatic warning to the Assad regime and then drawing the proverbial “red line in the sand.”
Assad crosses the line.
Instead of owning his commitment to the use of military force the president abruptly takes a step back to seek the approval congress.
As the debate rages in congress the president, standing in the midst of world leaders at the G-20 summit seems to take even a further step back by saying that it’s not his red line that has been crossed but the international community’s…that his credibility is not at stake but the worlds.
One gets the sense that if we wait another week we might hear the president say: “red line…what red line.”
There is no question that the president was taken aback by the lack of support from the British Parliament. But if he believes that we need to intervene in Syria then he has to own it. This seeming indecision on his part has our allies wondering about America’s resolve. Not good!
He needs to do more to convince the American people as well. If he intends to take this country into another armed conflict then the American people deserve to hear him make his case in detail. This is a big deal. A brief statement to the press in the Rose Garden does not do it justice.
But while our concern over the president’s handling of this situation is troubling there is another aspect of the whole affair that is even more disconcerting.
What happens after we blow up Assad’s command and control centers, his runways and his air support assets? What happens in the aftermath? For all the talk about committing the deed there seems to be little thought to what we do after the deed is done.
Presumably any ruler who is willing to kill over 100,000 of his own people and another 1,500 with chemical weapons is a pretty bad guy who is more than likely to respond in a not so friendly fashion. Perhaps he will orchestrate a more expansive use of chemical weapons against his own people. Perhaps he will expand the use to Israel, Turkey or one of our other allies in the region.
What are we prepared to do if Assad’s response is not surrender but to enact even more aggression?
There has been a lot of talk about America’s moral obligation as the world’s lone super power to intervene militarily in Syria. But there has been little conversation if any about an equally troubling set of circumstances in the aftermath of that military intervention.